America's Best Customers
Canada, $204.7 billionMexico, $128.9 billionChina, $69.5 billionJapan, $51.1 billionBritain, $45.7 billionGermany, $43.3 billionNetherlands, $32.2 billionSouth Korea, $28.6 billionFrance, $25.5 billionBrazil, $25.1 billion
Canada's low tariffs and trade restrictions also make it a sturdy bet for businesses looking for quick export gains. Canadian consumers show a particular propensity for trucks and large- to medium-sized automobiles—the top three U.S. exports to Canada so far in 2010.
Though Mexico increased tariffs in 2009, the move affected only 2 percent of U.S. exports to Mexico, and did not touch key sectors such as machinery and agricultural products. The country has also lifted restrictions on dairy and red meat products from the U.S. – a more than $2 billion market in 2009.
Though Americans buy four times as much from China as the Chinese buy from the U.S., opportunities in the grain, seed, and fruit are growing fast; these sectors now account for $9.3 billion of China's U.S. imports. The Chinese have also become lucrative clients of our private services industries—think tech and education. Orders to these companies from China have surged almost 700 percent the past 15 years.
In 2009 Japan's top U.S. import category was optic and medical instruments, totaling almost $6 billion. Aircraft equipment followed at $5.3 billion, with machinery at $4.5 billion. If you aren't manufacturing fiber optic cables or turboprop engines, however, you may still find a promising market in the Far East. Japan was our fourth largest importer of agricultural products in 2009 and continues to produce strong demand for private, high tech commercial services.
The British economy took a big hit in 2009, sliding to seventh from the fifth largest economy in 2008. Still the Brits continue to play a vital role in the global economy and remain tightly wed to U.S. imports. Agricultural and food products lead the way due to the UK's large population and limited access to natural resources.
Germany continued to prove its economic might in 2009 as the EU's largest trader and third largest importer in the world. The country, which boasts one of the most high tech and innovative economies in Europe, just saw a steep decline in retail sales. Still, Der Spiegel says unemployment is expected to dip below 3 million for the first time since reunification two decades ago, further indication of Germany's economic vitality.
Though the Dutch economy is growing at an annualized rate of just 0.5 percent, the country had the EU's lowest unemployment rate, 3.3 percent, meaning that consumer demand has held relatively steady. Its favorable location on the northern tip of mainland Europe also makes the Netherlands a hub of commercial factory and transportation activity.
South Korea has opened its doors to a number of American businesses in recent years, with a special focus on R&D. For example, the aircraft industry was South Korea's fourth-highest import category in 2009, claiming $1.8 billion. Pennsylvania company Helicopter Tech, for example, found 18 willing business partners after attending an air show in Seoul, according to the International Trade Administration.
Despite the recent economic turmoil, France continues to be an excellent market for U.S. exports for areas such as industrial chemicals, aircraft equipment, and high tech computer software and instrumentation. The French love their art as well – they've imported close to $225 million of U.S. artwork so far this year.
Even though its U.S. exports to Brazil declined by almost 20 percent between 2008 and 2009, the total volume of Brazilian purchases of American goods remains more than double what it was 15 years ago. The country's two leading import sectors are machinery and aircraft equipment, which collectively amount to more than $10 billion of its $26.1 billion in U.S. imports. The country has also displayed high demand for private commercial services in technology, business, telecom, and finance, which have also surged more than 200 percent since 1994.