U.S.-China Trade Robust in 2005, with Directional Imbalances Widening, Colography Group Says

Ocean, air freight up as shipping between the United States and China grows at a faster pace than between the U.S. and all world markets, consultancy reports

Atlanta — November 7, 2006 — Shipping between the United States and China grew at a faster pace in 2005 than between the U.S. and all world markets, with a dramatic widening of the trade imbalance between the two countries, The Colography Group said today in summarizing its annual analysis of air and ocean trade between the United States and 224 of its trading partners.

U.S. imports by all modes from China last year rose by 19.2 percent to 129.6 billion pounds, according to Colography Group data. The value of those imports soared by 24.4 percent to $235.2 billion. By contrast, total U.S. import tonnage, including from China, rose by 4.2 percent. Import value increased 15.1 percent, largely due to the run-up in petroleum prices.

The United States exported 74.2 billion pounds to China last year, up less than 2 percent from 2004. The value of those goods rose by 13 percent. Total U.S. exports — including China — reached 791.2 billion pounds, a 1.2 percent gain. The value of those goods rose just under 10 percent.

Ocean Trade

In the ocean trade, nearly 128 billion pounds of Chinese exports arrived at U.S. ports last year, a 19 percent increase from 2004 levels. The value of sea-freighted goods from China rose 21 percent to $180 billion. By contrast, U.S. ocean exports to China grew less than 2 percent to 73.9 billion pounds. U.S. ocean export value grew by 16 percent to $23.4 billion.

The vessel trade imbalance with China had a direct impact on total directional flows. Last year, 2.2 trillion pounds valued at $889 billion were imported into the United States by sea, dwarfing the 785 billion pounds (valued at $261.8 billion) exported from the United States on the water.

Air Trade

Approximately 1.8 billion pounds — nearly 20 percent of all U.S.-bound air trade — originated in China last year, a 21 percent increase from 2004 levels. The value of those imports totaled $54.8 billion, a stunning 37 percent above 2004.

U.S. air exports to China gained in 2005, though at a much slower pace and at much lower levels than comparable imports from China. Tonnage grew 3 percent to 265.3 million pounds, while the value of those goods rose 8 percent to $11.0 billion.

From the United States, 5.9 billion pounds of airfreight was exported globally in 2005, up 1.4 percent from 2004, Colography said. The value of those goods rose by 7.9 percent to $254.3 billion.

Total U.S. air import tonnage was virtually flat year-over-year at 9.2 billion pounds. Air import value rose 8.5 percent to $375.9 billion.

Gap Continuing to Widen

"For each pound air shipped to China, about seven pounds were imported," noted Ted Scherck, President of The Colography Group. "For every dollar of air value exported to China, nearly five dollars was imported. In the ocean trade, imports from China swelled by more than 20 billion pounds, while exports, albeit off a smaller base, rose only by 1.4 billion pounds. The data quantifies the oft-stated belief the widening U.S. trade gap with China shows little signs of narrowing."

Among other findings in The Colography Group's annual "U.S. International Cargo by Commodity and Country Database":

  • Air shipments in 2005 accounted for .75 percent of all U.S. export tonnage, essentially flat from 2004 levels. Air accounted for .42 percent of all U.S. import tonnage, down from .43 percent in 2004.

  • In 2005, the United States imported more vessel tonnage from Venezuela than from any other trading partner, underscoring the importance of petroleum products in the trade between the two nations.

  • China was the number one market for vessel value, both in terms of U.S. imports and exports.
The Colography Group's database offers a broad and in-depth analysis of commerce to and from the United States. Covering trade between the U.S. market and 224 countries, the report contains information on air and vessel cargo value, weight and distribution of demand by country and by commodity group. The database also provides regional cargo summaries for selected groups of countries that comprise nine Colography "world areas."

Companies Mentioned in This Article

The Colography Group