:: Transportation Equipment
Change in 2012 from 2011:
The U.S. trade deficit in transportation equipment grew for the third straight year in tandem with the slow recovery from the economic downturn, as growth in U.S. imports of transportation equipment again outpaced growth in U.S. exports in 2012 (figure TE.1). The trade deficit in motor vehicles and parts ($137.7 billion) continued to drive the increased U.S. trade deficit in the sector, though it was partially offset by the growing trade surplus in aircraft ($71.1 billion). The United States had a trade deficit in transportation equipment with many of its leading trade partners in 2012, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, Germany, and Korea, but maintained a trade surplus with China.
On a percentage basis, the largest increase in U.S. exports occurred in the ship, boat, and related products industry, which posted a 40 percent increase ($967 million) in 2012 to $3.4 billion. U.S. exports of floating or submersible drilling or production platforms led the increase, rising from nearly $22 million in 2011 to $912 million in 2012, likely reflecting greater investment in offshore oilfield development in response to higher global demand and prices.
Canada remained the leading U.S. market for transportation equipment, accounting for 24 percent of U.S. exports in 2012, followed by Mexico with 11 percent. Motor vehicles and parts were the leading U.S. exports to these two markets, in large part because of the integration of the motor vehicle industry in North America spurred by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). China, Germany, and Japan rounded out the top five export markets for transportation equipment, representing 6 percent, 5 percent, and 4 percent, respectively, of U.S. sector exports.
U.S. exports of aircraft to China rose by nearly $1.6 billion (25 percent) to $7.9 billion in 2012, representing 45 percent of total U.S. transportation equipment exports to China. U.S. exports to Japan were also dominated by aircraft, which posted a strong gain in 2012, up 73 percent to $8.1 billion. U.S. exports to Germany, on the other hand, were led by motor vehicles and parts, reflecting the strong ties between the German domestic industry and U.S. “transplant” producers BMW and Mercedes-Benz, both of which have a localized supply network in the United States.
As with U.S. exports, U.S. imports of ships, boats, and related products posted the greatest percentage shift in 2012, increasing by 44 percent ($610 million) to $2.0 billion, largely driven by imports of floating or submersible drilling or production platforms. Imports of these goods increased more than fivefold to nearly $600 million in 2012, likely in response to increased investment in offshore oil drilling spurred by growing demand and higher prices for oil, as previously noted.
Many leading U.S. export markets in 2012—specifically Mexico, Canada, Japan, and Germany—were also the major sources of U.S. imports, with Korea rounding out the top five U.S. import sources. These five countries have strong ties to the U.S. motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts industries through transplant production or regional industry integration. They accounted for 77 percent ($277 billion) of total transportation equipment imports in 2012 and 84 percent ($201.8 billion) of total motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts imports.
Imports from NAFTA partners and Japan account for the majority of U.S. imports of motor vehicles and parts. Mexico was by far the leading source of U.S. imports of certain motor-vehicle parts in 2012, accounting for 38 percent ($26.6 billion) of total U.S. parts imports, and Canada provided another 14 percent ($9.9 billion) of such imports. These two NAFTA partners were also among the three largest sources of U.S. imports of motor vehicles in 2012, in addition to Japan. U.S. imports of motor vehicles from Canada, the leading U.S. supplier, rose by 18 percent to $47.2 billion in 2012, and accounted for 28 percent of total motor vehicle imports. U.S. imports of motor vehicles from Japan increased by 25 percent to $39.7 billion, reflecting the industry’s ongoing recovery from the severe effects of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in early 2011. U.S. motor vehicle imports from Mexico increased as well, by 16 percent to $35.7 billion.