The $2 Trillion in Goods the US Exported in 2023: Led by Energy Products, Capital Goods, Pharmaceuticals, and Automotive

The biggest export group — crude oil, petroleum products, natural gas, petrochemicals — retraced part of the 50% spike as prices dropped. 

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

The huge US trade deficit improved – or got less horrible, we might say – by 19% in 2023, with exports of goods and services rising to $3.05 trillion, and with imports of goods and services falling sharply to $3.83 trillion, producing the least horrible trade deficit since 2020, of $773 billion. The US trade deficit with China and Hong Kong was cut by 29%, as other countries such as Vietnam and Mexico picked up some of the trade. As we discussed in detail the other day, it’s a good thing that trade finally improves, and it was a major contributor to the surprisingly strong GDP in 2023.

Despite the horrible trade deficit, the US still exported over $2 trillion of goods alone – not counting services – amounting to roughly half the GDP of Germany. Those exports added $2 trillion to US GDP in 2023. Those are big numbers. But the US is a huge economy, and it doesn’t export enough, given the size of its economy; and it imports way too much.

The biggest US export products.

Industrial supplies and materials include crude oil, petroleum products, natural gas, and petrochemical products that together amounted to $466 billion in exports in 2023, but that was down by 13% from 2022 when $534 billion of the products were exported, amid the 50% surge that year. These products are the largest line items in the overall category “Industrial supplies and materials.” Some of the spike and retracement are related to the sharp movements in prices.

The US has become the largest producer of crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas in the world, drill baby drill, and it has a large petrochemical industry, and exports large amounts of those products.


Industrial supplies and materials 2023 2022 % change
Total, in billion $ 728.0 830.8 -12.4%
Top products:
Crude oil 116.9 119.1 -1.9%
Other petroleum products 77.3 91.2 -15.2%
Fuel oil 47.9 58.5 -18.1%
Plastic materials 44.8 50.2 -10.8%
Natural gas 42.0 63.1 -33.5%
Other chemicals 39.5 42.0 -6.0%
Organic chemicals 34.6 39.8 -13.1%
Other industrial supplies 32.9 32.6 1.1%
Natural gas liquids 30.9 38.0 -18.7%
Nonmonetary gold 29.6 40.1 -26.3%
Finished metal shapes 25.8 25.4 1.6%
Newsprint 12.6 14.7 -14.2%
Precious metals, other 12.3 18.8 -34.5%
Iron and steel mill products 12.2 12.0 1.5%
Coal and fuels, other 11.9 11.8 1.4%
Inorganic chemicals 11.9 13.3 -10.3%
Fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides 11.1 15.9 -30.2%
Metallurgical grade coal 11.0 13.6 -19.2%
Copper 10.0 9.7 3.6%


“Capital goods except automotive” was the #1 export category until the export surge of crude oil, petroleum products, natural gas, and petrochemical products took over.


Capital goods, except automotive 2023 2022 % change
Total, in billion $ 601.2 572.7 5.0%
Top products:
Other industrial machinery 68.8 73.9 -6.8%
Semiconductors 57.1 66.5 -14.1%
Civilian aircraft engines 53.8 44.9 19.9%
Electric apparatus 53.2 49.2 8.1%
Medical equipment 46.4 42.8 8.3%
Telecommunications equipment 39.1 34.6 13.0%
Civilian aircraft 35.9 29.2 23.0%
Industrial engines 29.6 26.8 10.8%
Computer accessories 29.1 31.5 -7.7%
Measuring, testing, control instruments 28.8 27.6 4.5%
Civilian aircraft parts 23.8 20.3 17.0%
Computers 19.7 18.4 7.1%
Generators, accessories 15.1 14.0 8.5%
Materials handling equipment 14.4 13.2 8.8%
Laboratory testing instruments 14.1 13.9 1.7%
Excavating machinery 13.2 12.1 9.0%
Agricultural machinery, equipment 11.0 10.0 9.7%
Photo, service industry machinery 10.9 10.5 4.1%
Metalworking machine tools 7.5 6.9 9.1%


“Consumer goods” exports are dominated by pharmaceutical preparations, and those exports have soared by 70% since 2019.


Consumer goods 2023 2022 % change
Total, in billion $ 260.4 245.7 6.0%
Top products:
Pharmaceutical preparations 102.0 89.3 14.2%
Cell phones and other household goods 33.2 31.8 4.5%
Gem diamonds 20.7 20.6 0.6%
Toiletries and cosmetics 15.0 14.4 4.6%
Jewelry 14.4 11.8 21.8%
Artwork and other collectibles 11.3 11.1 2.2%
Toys, games, and sporting goods 10.9 12.4 -11.9%
Textile apparel and household goods 8.2 8.4 -2.3%


“Automotive vehicles, parts, and engines” exports are dwarfed by imports of products in that category.


Automotive vehicles, parts, and engines 2023 2022 % change
Total, in billion $ 179.0 159.7 12.1%
Top products:
Other automotive parts and accessories 62.8 54.7 14.9%
Passenger cars 61.6 57.2 7.7%
Trucks, buses, and special purpose vehicles 29.8 24.4 22.2%
Engines and engine parts 21.3 20.1 6.0%


“Foods, feeds, and beverages” exports vary widely from year to year, with some commodities jumping and others dropping. The year 2023 was complicated by low water on the Mississippi that restricted barge grain movements, particularly corn.


Foods, feeds, and beverages 2023 2022 % change
Total, in billion $ 162.5 179.9 -9.7%
Top products:
Soybeans 29.5 35.4 -16.7%
Meat, poultry, etc. 24.8 26.5 -6.5%
Other foods 17.5 17.8 -1.4%
Corn 14.3 19.8 -27.5%
Animal feeds, n.e.c. 13.1 12.4 5.4%
Nuts 9.7 9.7 0.2%
Fruits, frozen juices 8.7 8.6 0.8%
Vegetables 7.9 7.5 5.9%
Bakery products 7.7 7.1 8.0%
Dairy products and eggs 6.6 8.0 -16.8%
Wheat 6.3 8.5 -26.3%


“Other goods” is everything else that gets exported that is not part of the five big categories.


Other goods 2023 2022 % change
Total, in billion $ 88.4 76.4 15.8%


Exports minus imports: Step in the right direction.

Exports of goods (blue) fell by $39 billion to $2.05 trillion, as we discussed here. Imports of goods (purple) improved by $161 billion to $3.11 trillion. So the trade deficit in goods (red line) improved by $121 billion, to $1.06 trillion, the first major improvement since 2009.

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  53 comments for “The $2 Trillion in Goods the US Exported in 2023: Led by Energy Products, Capital Goods, Pharmaceuticals, and Automotive

  1. Freedomnowandhow says:

    Interesting, as a broad market. Corn and soybeans down suggests our prices are not competitive?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      No, low water on the Mississippi and other factors.

    • J. Pow says:

      The real story is scripted by me. The richest 1% made more than 60% of all wealth made in Last 2 years. That’s $42 trillion for the richest 1% of this world.

      So the 1% can keep spending and investing obscenely. The asset prices will keep going up, and the total spending from 1% will distort all averages fooling people to think “Economy is great” even when it sucks for the 90%.

      My minions (mainstream media) will keep toying with your brain as you feel more miserable to prevent you from blaming the system!

      • Gattopardo says:

        Wait a minute, J. So this means the undeserving remaining 99% got $28 trillion?????

        Asking for a friend. BTW, see you at the country club this weekend?

        • J. Pow says:

          Out of 99%, top 9% got more that $20 trillion of remaining $28 trillion pf the wealth created….,

          you should get the idea.

        • Gattopardo says:

          You’re getting soft, JP. Leaving $8 trillion to the unwashed 90%? You can do better than that.

        • Bs ini says:

          Nope lost my CC membership to inflated prices and no ttimes with higher memberships. I went on a price increase vacation like we should do on vehicles

      • Apple says:

        It’s virtually impossible for the 1%’ers to spend all of the money they have made in the past 2 years.

        There are only so many original Da Vinci’s.

  2. VintageVNvet says:

    Thanks once again WR for your clear scholarship and reporting of the facts,, , maybe even more important in these days of constant propaganda masquerading as ”news.”
    $$ OTW soon.

  3. Anthony says:

    It seems that the USA is using one of the most polluting ways to extract oil and natural gas. I’m not sure it is something to brag about, if large parts of the shale producing areas are very badly polluted.

    Shale mining is banned in most of Europe. The UK has one of the biggest shale areas with 100 years of oil and gas (and a 1000 years of coal) but the people said no. Sad about the coal but shale mining is a no no.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Without fracking, you people in Europe might have to pay twice as much as you now pay for petrol and natural gas. Fracking removed the US from the global demand picture. And instead, the US has become a net exporter. It has become a global supplier. You’d be beholden to OPEC’s whims. The US fracking boom unseated OPEC from its pedestal, the US can and did crush the price of crude oil and natural gas (now the frackers are trying very hard not to do it again because they’re losing money when they do). All this is a very good thing for Europe.

      The solution is to use less petroleum-based fuels and materials. The solution is reduced demand for those fuels and materials. The solution is NOT to cut supply – that just makes a bunch of oligarchs even richer. Demand for gasoline (petrol, as you might say) is already down in the US and Europe, so that’s happening, but slowly. But demand for plastics continues to rise. And I’m not sure which is less bad for the environment: combined-cycle 65% efficient natural gas power plants, fueled by fracked natural gas, or 35% efficient coal power plants (65% is waste heat) fueled by mountaintop-mined coal. I mean, there is no free lunch when it comes to energy other than conservation and improved efficiencies.

      • Gattopardo says:

        You left out nuclear. Not free lunch, but some of the cost of the lunch is deferred in form of risk.

      • vvp says:

        Also natural gas crushed Coal and is a big part of why the US per capital CO2 emissions are back to the early 20th century levels (there’s other parts too).

        I enjoy improving emissions while crushing OPEC+.

  4. Indelible says:

    Fascinating breakdown!

    My career was spent building commerial civilian aircraft…always proud to export a product with value.

    We all play a role in the export/import relationship. I recently switched from buying ubiquitous imported Chinese-made tools to top-notch imported German-made tools.

  5. Dave W says:

    Would be interesting to see this data as %of GDP and/or constant $ ratter than nominal $

  6. Stephen Waters says:

    Wolf – thank you for this information! Can/will you do a breakdown of the US imports? The problem is the US is importing more than we’re exporting. I was taught years ago that we “should be export more than we import and maintain a favorable balance in trade.”

  7. LouisDeLaSmart says:


    Hello Wolf,

    some article ago you emphasised that there are major investments in the semicon industry in terms of new manufacturing facilities. I am unaware of any significant disruptions of supply chains this year, hence the 15% decline is something I cannot understand. Could it be that the decrease is due to the increase of other goods being exported, and more semicon products are exported indirectly? Or is China actually getting a foothold in the manufacturing process, and taking a share of the market? Any idea?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      This is dollar-based. Semiconductor prices spiked during the shortages and then gave up some of that spike in 2023, so that’s the decline in prices, which shows up in the export figures. Energy products went through the same thing. Semiconductors are very cyclical, with prices, demand, and inventories jumping up and down.

      It takes many years to bring a semiconductor plant online, so companies cannot make decisions by the cyclicality of semiconductors. That cyclicality is a constant in the industry, it’s always there, and they all know it. They build plants with an outlook that is measured in many years and decades.

      • Harry Houndstooth says:

        Pure wisdom dispensed daily.

        Nvidia just added a Tesla to it’s market cap.

        Nvidia is worth more than the Chinese Stock Market?

        It is a notoriously cyclical business beyond any reasonable hope of sustaining a market cap anywhere close to this level kissing a Price to Sales of 40.

        I just see a wagon Harry Houndstooth Hauling Company next to a pile of gold coins marked SQQQ $11.

      • LouisDeLaSmart says:

        Thank you for your wisdom.

  8. SlightlyAngryMostlyHappyGuy says:

    Thanks for the reminder how big and powerful the US economy is. How wealthy we are compared to most of the world. I ate fresh strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, and apples with Greek yogurt, artisan bread and fresh farm eggs for breakfast. Fresh ground coffee with bottled cream. Took a nice walk around my safe, full of families and dogs neighborhood, saying good morning with a full belly and good mood.

    I am guilty of bitching about this and that, but man, I have to be thankful that I am in this country. I am probably like most people here that we do not want the ride to be over and that is why we are getting pissed off.
    Keep up the good work, Wolf.

    • Desert Rat says:

      Thought you were going to break out into song for a minute there. Thought I heard the tune to Leave It To Beaver. Geez, take off the rose colored glasses every once in awhile. There is a lot wrong with this country, and it’s not recognizable anymore. It is not the powerhouse it once was. And the ride you think you are experiencing is mostly corruption (ie stonk casino) and propaganda.

      • Apple says:

        The 1950’s was not the paradise some think it was.

        Remember, the Silent Generation was outraged at the scandalous dancing of Elvis Presley.

      • Einhal says:

        I see SlightlyAngry’s point, and that’s exactly why I’m so unhappy with the state of the country and economy right now. I Like what we have CURRENTLY, but I know it’s not sustainable, and that in large part we’re riding our past coattails. Without the reserve currency and people’s trust in our printed dollar, we don’t have anywhere near the economy people think we do.

        I want to return to sustainability and a healthy economy so that we can enjoy fresh fruit and farm eggs and fresh ground coffee.

        • Blake says:

          Riding on the coattails of the past and borrowing from the future, until we cannot borrow anymore! Sustainable and more responsible would be a nice change. I can’t really tell if we are starting to get there, or not.

    • davos milei says:

      This idyllic lifestyle is on a national level borrowed from the future. It is wrong to saddle our kids, grandkids and further with this enormous debt that now stands at $101,807 per citizen and $264,945 per taxpayer. Our greed and carelessness could cause widespread poverty to our future family members. Do we think they would want that? If not, why do we do this to them?

    • Lune says:

      What, no avocado toast? :)

      I get what you’re saying and I agree but the resentment that’s building is because that dream you just outlined is getting much harder to obtain for people who don’t already have it eg young people, poor people, immigrants, etc.

      How much does a house in that neighborhood cost? Or more precisely, how many years of salary would it take to buy it? And that would be *after* spending a decade or more paying off your first mortgage aka student loans.

      The American Dream certainly exists but the general feeling is, with an economy as large as ours, it should exist for a lot more people than it does. Instead most of the fruits of this economy go to billionaires and the 0.01% while the rest of us need to work ever harder to enjoy a standard of living our parents took for granted decades ago.

  9. rick m says:

    The semiconductor number is relatively large, but isn’t it really saying that domestic industries that use semiconductors used more, and used them to make a lot of the other things on the capital goods-other-than-automotive list, most of which have higher profit margins than simple consumer grade semiconductor chips? Except for the other-industrial-equipment (?) category and computer side stuff all these more durable export product numbers are positive. The semiconductors seem like added value along with the intellectual property and proprietary processes involved. Just my guess.
    SF by 3

    • Dave Roberts says:

      Yes. At least. Just no more TS or Kelce 😜😜😜

      • Harvey Mushman says:

        I get the feeling Kelce is a loose cannon. The way he bumped into and was screaming at Coach Andy Reid… Taylor Swift should see the red flags, or somebody should point them out.

      • BS ini says:

        How did TK enter a conversation on natural gas ?

  10. Hubberts Curve says:

    The category for exports of toys, games and sporting goods dropped a lot but I am actually surprised that it is as high as it is. Not many US toys left on the market. Perhaps it is the sporting goods holding things up with people around the world buying a lot of Louisville Sluggers and Lacrosse Sticks.

  11. WB says:

    Hmm, exporting all the raw materials, commodities, and energy required to build/innovate finished products of real value, instead of building/innovating these finished products ourselves…

    What could possible go wrong, especially with the current demographics? How’s your mandarin?

    • Lune says:

      Agreed. I think it was Obama who loosened restrictions on export of natural gas. And it was a huge mistake. Kudos to Biden for pausing approvals of new LNG terminals.

      These are one-time national resources that won’t come back once they’re used up. It behooves us to get the most benefit we can from them. If foreign companies want access to our cheap natural gas they should build their refineries here so we can capture more of the value chain. It’s not like we don’t have the expertise or infrastructure to produce whatever end product you want from the raw stuff. And that’s what used to happen until previous administrations sold out to the oil lobby.

      • Lotta Gas says:

        Natural gas – refineries?


        • Lune says:

          You must be the guy that also goes around yelling that guns and rifles aren’t the same thing.

          should I say petrochemical complexes instead?

          Or are you nitpicking the terminology because you can’t argue against my main point of keeping as much of the energy industry value chain here on US soil?

  12. MM says:

    Surprising that all categories of hydrocarbons dropped in export vol yoy.

    Longer term I’d assume the opposite trend (esp nat gas liquids).

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The prices collapsed.

      Exports of petroleum and petroleum products measured in barrels reached another record in 2023. When the EIA releases the annual data, I will post about it. But GDP doesn’t go by barrels, it goes by dollars.

  13. Robert Angle says:

    Trading with communist nation’s is treasonous 🤬

    • Winston says:

      But very profitable with its environmental and labor cost arbitrage.

      China has proved the GREAT truth of the old commie adage heard in various forms, “A capitalist will sell you the rope you hang him with,” that being the basic message of a much longer quote by Lenin to which I will add, “when national governments don’t prevent it.” But why would they when they are the beneficiaries via their campaign support from those benefitting from that trade (aka, bought governments).

      Of course, it’s even worse in our case since it’s actually, “The capitalists will fund your “rope” factory, allow you to steal IP with no consequences, thereby allowing you to eventually replace the foreign capitalists with native industry, and they will then BUY the rope you hang them with.”

      Then, suddenly, out of the blue it is realized that they have created a very sophisticated military adversary out of a country with 1.5 billion people which has clearly documented that they have long believed that they should be the world hegemon and are doing everything they can to replace us. This leads to recent headlines like, “US Air Force Preps for Mega Overhaul to Match China’s Military Build-up.”


  14. Dean says:

    Where are the weapons exports? LOL

  15. BS ini says:

    Export of cheap fossil fuel energy to the free world is one of the crowing achievements in the USA energy business in the last 40 years. Development and investment in these sectors and industries as well as mobile technology and software are the three dominant areas we have dominated the world in . I’m thankful to have contributed and our standard of living probably the highest per capita globally because of “fracking”among others.

Comments are closed.