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Visualizing the Top Import Partners for Each U.S. State

Where does the U.S. get most of its imports? And does the main import partner for each state vary across the country? Our latest map of top importers around the country has the answers.

Each State's Main Import Partner Map

  • Canada is the main import partner for 20 states, and Mexico is only the top import partner for 6 states.
  • The U.S. has a massive trade imbalance with China. Although only a handful of states have China as their main export partner, China plays a much larger role in imports, serving as the main import partner for 15 states.
  • Montana is the most heavily dependent state on a single country for imports. Montana received $3.4B in goods from Canada, representing 87% of the state’s total.
  • Most states have a diversified portfolio of import partners, with the average top importer across all states and territories contributing some 28.3% of the total.

We grabbed the numbers for our map of main imports for each state for 2020 from the U.S. Census Bureau. We overlaid each state with the flag of its top import partner, adding the total value of goods as well as the share of imports each foreign country accounted for in the state. This lets us easily see where Americans get the bulk of their forign-made goods in any given place around the country.

One of the most interesting ways to understand this type of map is to compare it with a similar map of top export partners. Canada and Mexico both feature prominently on each one, but there is a key difference. Canada claims top import partner on the map for 20 states, and it’s the top export partner for 33. Mexico is similarly a top importer for 6 states, and it’s also the main source of goods for 6 states. But take a look at China, which is the top import partner for an incredible 15 states but only top exporter for 5. The U.S. is clearly taking in a lot more goods and services every year from China than it is selling back, meaning there’s a significant trade imbalance.

Because we are only focusing on the single biggest import partner for each state, we aren’t able to show which country contributes the largest amount of imports overall. For example, Canada is the top import partner for a lot of Western states with small populations, but China takes the top spot for several of the most populated states. California alone imported $130.3B in goods from China in 2020, which is more than the top import partners for 39 states and territories combined. Interestingly, Switzerland takes the top spot for New York. It’s therefore important to keep in mind the bigger picture of total economic activity in imports and exports.

Do you think it is a bad thing for the U.S. to have such a large trade imbalance with China? Let us know in the comments.

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