Today’s Chart: Who’s buying the most?

Before taking up a deeper analysis of the US-Mexico trade relationship, let’s review, from a long run perspective, where the main US export markets are.


  • According to the US Census Bureau, in 2015, the largest US export market was Canada, accounting for 18.7% of total US exports; namely, US$280.6 billion (bn). In second place is the EU[1] representing 18.2% of US exports to the world with US$273.3 bn, followed by Mexico with 15.7% (US$235.7 bn). Greater China[2] ranks fourth with a 10.2% share (US$153.8 bn) and wrapping up this list is Japan with a share of 4.2% (US$62.4 bn). Since 1992, these 5 markets, on average, account for almost 68% of US total exports.
  • The Canadian market reached its peak in 1999 when it got 23.9%, just after the phasing out of the Canada-USA FTA[3]. Canada has been the most important and reliable US export market for decades. Nevertheless, it is showing a secular decline as consequence of its mature nature vis-à-vis other emerging markets and new US export market opportunities.
  • The EU has been showing a decreasing secular trend since 1992 when it was the main US export market with a share of 24.6%. The EU took over from Canada momentarily in 2008 and 2009, just before the Great Recession. However, after 2009 its complicated economic and political situation has been a major hurdle as a dynamic and trustful US export market.
  • Japan was the third US export market in the early 1990s, reaching its peak in 1995 (11%). Nowadays, Japan accounts for 4.2% of US exports and shows one of the most dramatic declines as a US export market.
  • Only the Mexican and Chinese markets show a growing long-run trend for US exports. China has a huge potential as an export market for any given country and its exporting trend has shown a spectacular growth rate. So far, it hasn’t surpassed the maximum historic Japanese share and the recent economic developments make us guess that in the short run its share as a US export market might be declining or stagnating.
  • On the other hand, the Mexican market has proven itself as a reliable, stable, and growing US export market, even before NAFTA. In 1992, Mexico was the fourth US export market with a 9.1% share. In 2015, it climbed to 15.7%, which was greater than the combined share of Greater China and Japan. In addition, when considering the EU share minus the UK share (just in case, Brexit gets to materialize), Mexico becomes the second US export market (15.7% versus 14.5%).
  • In sum, the one who’s buying is the only one that can make you great today and in the future.

[1] The EU includes its 28 Member States, plus the overseas French territories of Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Mayotte, and Reunion.

[2] Greater China includes mainland China, Macau, and Hong Kong.


Tariffs on qualifying goods traded between Canada and the United States became duty free on January 1, 1998, in accordance with the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement (CUSFTA) which was carried forward under NAFTA for goods traded between Canada and the United States.

Autor: Félix González Sáenz



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