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US imports keep falling, except from China

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, signs a trade agreement with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.
AP/Evan Vucci
US imports from China are surging.
  • Dan Kopf
By Dan Kopf

Data editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

US imports are at a five-year low, according to data released today by the US Department of Commerce. But while trade with the vast majority of countries has plunged since March, US imports from China are surging.

What happened? The value of US imports fell to $164 billion in May, the lowest monthly figure in more than five years. Yet imports from China, the US’s largest source of imports for over a decade, actually rose from a 10-year low of $20.7 billion in March to $36.6 billion in May.

Why it’s important: More US imports from China are likely a result of servicing pent-up demand from the first quarter of 2020, when supply chain disruptions stopped many American companies from purchasing imports from outside the country. The US’s trade surplus with China—imports minus exports—jumped back up to $27.9 billion in May, from just $12 billion in March. That won’t make US president Donald Trump happy: His trade policies with China are aimed at reducing that surplus.

Why it’s interesting: Even through a pandemic and a trade war, the US continues to be incredibly reliant on Chinese goods. After falling out of the top spot in February and March, China was once again the US’s number one source of imports in April and May.

How to find more data: Check USA Trade Online for the best and most up-to-date US-specific data. For international statistics, the International Trade Centre’s Trade Map dashboard has detailed, easy-to-use data on trade between countries.

This story is part of a new series we’re trying, “The Thing,” in which we examine what a single chart can tell us about the global economy. 

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