NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Profiling The China Trade

April 8, 1999

China wants to be admitted to the World Trade Organization and the Clinton Administration wants to help -- as long as China agrees to open its borders to imports and foreign investors.

Where does China now stand in trade with the U.S.

  • Since the late 1980s, China's exports bound for U.S. ports have soared, while a host of restrictions have kept U.S. exports to China quite low -- to the point where we ran a deficit of nearly $60 billion with that country last year, only slightly behind Japan.
  • U.S. imports from China last year amounted to nearly $46 billion in general manufactured goods, $21.6 billion worth of machinery and transportation equipment, $1.4 billion in chemical products and $2.4 billion in miscellaneous goods.
  • In 1997, the U.S. exported to all countries $668.7 billion worth of goods and imported $899 billion.
  • By contrast, China sent out $182.7 billion worth of exports, and bought $142.4 billion.

China was the U.S.'s fourth-largest trading partner last year, with total trade of $85.4 billion.

Even though trade with China is worth $85 billion, it is too small -- little more than 1 percent -- to make much of an impact in an $8 trillion American economy.

Nevertheless, opening China to excluded U.S. business sectors such as insurance, pharmaceuticals, farm and telecommunications equipment could do wonders for these sectors and individual companies.

Source: Michael M. Weinstein, "Limits of Economic Diplomacy," New York Times, April 8, 1999.


Browse more articles on Economic Issues