Unexpectedly Intriguing!
14 December 2022

Data for October 2022 indicates the total value of goods being imported by the U.S. from China shrank year-over-year, pointing to developing weakness in the relative health of the U.S. economy. At the same time, the value of U.S. exports to China was up, but has dropped to single digit growth rates after hovering at a 20% year-over-year growth rate in both August and September 2022.

The following chart shows how these new developments fit into the modern history of trade between the two nations.

Year Over Year Growth Rate of Exchange Rate Adjusted U.S.-China Trade in Goods, January 1986 - October 2022

The shrinkage in the value of goods imported from China was more than enough to offset the slowed growth in U.S. exports to China, pulling the combined value of trade between the two countries down. The next chart illustrates that change has pulled the trajectory of trade down after having briefly outperformed a post-pandemic trade recovery counterfactual.

Combined Value of U.S. Exports to China and U.S. Imports from China, January 2017 - October 2022

The primary reason U.S. exports to China were positive in October 2022 is because of the inflation of soybean prices. Combined with having entered peak soybean export season, the cumulative value of soybean exports is setting records, although the cumulative quantity of soybeans exported is significantly below recent years. The following animated chart cycles between both sets of data, pay attention to 2022's levels for both.

Animation: Cumulative Value of U.S. Soybean Exports to China by Month, 2016-2022 YTD

At 2021's prices, we estimate the real value of 2022's U.S. soybean exports to China is running about 12% below 2021's levels.


U.S. Census Bureau. Trade in Goods with China. Last updated: 3 November 2022.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Soybeans - Price Received, Measured in $/bushel. [Online Database]. Accessed 10 December 2022.

U.S. Trade Online. Soybean Exports to China. [Online Database]. Accessed: 10 December 2022.


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