In a recent post, I linked to a WSJ article that referred to China as the “U.S.’s largest trading partner.” A Canadian, Carl Clarke, wrote an email suggesting that the WSJ got it wrong about China, and observes “that same statement is repeated frequently by various American news media.” I checked U.S. trade data, and Mr. Clarke is exactly right – Canada has been, and continues to be, the U.S.’s largest trading partner, not China. For the WSJ, America’s premier business paper, to get it so wrong is particularly troubling.
The Census Bureau regularly (monthly) tracks the U.S.’s top ten trading partners, going back for at least twelve years, and there has never been a single month, nor a total year since 1998, when Canada has not been the largest trading partner of the United States. (Note: Trade volume is measured by the sum of exports and imports.)
The top chart above displays annual trade volumes (exports + imports) for Canada and China from 2000 through 2009 (estimated), showing that trade with Canada is typically about $200 billion greater than trade with China. The table above shows that trade with Canada in 2008 ($596.5B) was 46% greater than trade with China ($409.3B). And consider that U.S. trade with Canada was more than our trade with Germany, U.K., France, S. Korea, Netherlands and Brazil COMBINED ($545.5B).