International trade is an economic and political issue, but little is said about products the U.S. imports. Most promoters of free trade talk about exports in detail and ignore import. Critics of trade talk in generalities about imports, but seldom mentioned which specific items they believe U.S. consumers should not be allowed to buy from sources outside the U.S.

D'acord amb la U.S. Department of Commerce, the total value of merchandise imports in calendar year 2007 era $1.954 trillion. The largest category was petroleum and mineral fuels at $361 mIL mILIONS, 18.5 percent of total merchandise imports. The next three categories are manufactured products which have received attention recently: general machinery at $250 mIL mILIONS, electrical equipment at $249 billion and vehicles at $214 mIL mILIONS, for a total of $713 mIL mILIONS, 36.5 percent of total merchandise imports. Apparel items are also high on the list at $75.6 mIL mILIONS, 3.9 percent of imports, as are chemicals at $59.5 mIL mILIONS, 3.0 per cent, and iron and steel and products at $57.2 mIL mILIONS, 2.9 percent of the total. Pharmaceuticals imports have been an issue lately and were $48.9 mIL mILIONS, 2.5 percent of the total. These eight categories account for $1.315 trillion of imports, 67.3 percent of the total.

A few other categories that make the news include precious stones and pearls at $47.6 mIL mILIONS, toys, games and sports equipment at $31.1 billion and footwear at $19.4 mIL mILIONS. Works of art, collectorspieces and antiques totaled $8.7 mIL mILIONS.

For the first time in 2007 China was the largest exporter to the U.S. a $322 mIL mILIONS, 16.5 per cent de U.S. merchandise imports, just edging out Canada at $313 mIL mILIONS, 16.0 per cent. Mexico was number three at $211 mIL mILIONS, 10.8 per cent, followed by Japan at $146 mIL mILIONS, 7.4 per cent, Germany at $94 mIL mILIONS, 4.8 per cent, the United Kingdom at $57 mIL mILIONS, 2.9 per cent, and South Korea at $48 mIL mILIONS, 2.4 per cent. Venezuela was number nine at $40.0 billion and Saudi Arabia number 11 a $36 mIL mILIONS.

Major categories for imports from China in 2007 include electrical equipment at $76.7 mIL mILIONS, general machinery at $64.0 mIL mILIONS, toys, games and sports equipment at $26.1 billion and apparel at $24.0 mIL mILIONS. Pharmaceuticals were only $401 milió. Canada’s largest exports to the U.S. were petroleum and products at $78.7 mIL mILIONS, vehicles and parts at $60.4 billion and general machinery at $22.0 mIL mILIONS. From Mexico electrical equipment was highest at $54.9 mIL mILIONS, followed by petroleum and products at $34.1 billion and vehicles at $33.9 mIL mILIONS. Vehicles led imports from Japan at $56.4 billion followed by general machinery at $30.1 billion and electrical equipment at $21.8 mIL mILIONS. Vehicles also led in imports from Germany at $22.4 billion followed by general machinery at $20.8 billion and pharmaceuticals at $8.0 mIL mILIONS. South Korea looks like a developed country with electrical equipment exports to the U.S. a $13.4 mIL mILIONS, vehicles at $10.6 and general machinery at $7.8 mIL mILIONS. Almost all of the imports from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia were petroleum and products.

According to USDA the U.S. imported $70.0 billion of agricultural products during fiscal year 2007, octubre 1, 2006 fins al setembre 30, 2007, and is expected to import $76.5 billion this year. Imports were led by fruits and juices at $8.52 mIL mILIONS, beer and wine at $8.23 billion and vegetables at $7.28 mIL mILIONS. These three categories accounted for 34.1 percent of agricultural imports. Imported products not produced in the U.S. in significant volumes included coffee beans and products at $3.65 mIL mILIONS, cocoa and chocolate at $2.59 mIL mILIONS, essential oils at $2.48 billion and natural rubber at $2.09 mIL mILIONS. These four categories accounted for 15.4 percent of imports. Beef and veal imports were $3.39 billion and pork imports were $1.21 mIL mILIONS.

The EU-27 is the biggest source of agricultural imports for the U.S. a $15.0 mIL mILIONS, 21.4 percent of imports, closely followed by Canada at $14.7 mIL mILIONS, 21.0 percent of imports. Mexico was third at $9.9 billion and 14.2 per cent. The next largest were China at $2.8 mIL mILIONS, 4.0 per cent, Australia at $2.6 mIL mILIONS, 3.7 per cent, and Brazil at $2.5 mIL mILIONS, 3.6 per cent. The EU’s biggest items were beer and wine at $4.8 billion and essential oils at $2.0 mIL mILIONS. Canada led with snack foods at $2.3 mIL mILIONS, live animals at $1.9 billion and red meats at $1.8 mIL mILIONS. Mexican imports to the U.S. were led by fresh vegetables at $2.7 mIL mILIONS, wine and beer at $1.7 billion and fresh fruits at $1.5 mIL mILIONS. China’s biggest category was processed fruits and vegetables at $706 milió.

Els EUA. generally imports goods from other developed countries. The major exceptions are petroleum where the U.S. imports from developing countries, Mexico which supplies 14 percent of agricultural imports and some industrial products and China which is a major supplier of machinery. Most of the other imported products can and are produced in most developed countries. U.S. consumers have chosen to access global supply chains, which is most evident in vehicles which are among the top three categories of imports from Canada, Mèxic, Japó, Germany and South Korea. Manufacturers have taken notice of U.S. consumidors’ choices in the supply chain and have spread out vehicle production, including in the U.S. The same is true for consumer electronics.

Bashing imports will continue to be a popular political activity this year, but it puts politicians at odds with U.S. consumers and voters who continue to access international supply chains for consumer goods to achieve the quality and affordability they seek. At some point consumers need to make their voices heard in the political marketplace if they are to continue to have the benefits of an open economic marketplace.