The folks at HowMuch.net sent me an e-mail last week. They have created a chart that shows the value of all vehicles imported into the United States in 2017 broken down by country of origin. Using data collected from the International Trade Center’s Trade Map and the US Census Bureau, they created a graphic that shows at a glance which countries provided the cars imported to America last year. The total value of all those imports was approximately $170 billion.
The top 5 importers of vehicles to America for 2017 were:
Canada: $43.8 billion
Japan: $40.7 billion
Mexico: $30.6 billion
Germany: $20.8 billion
South Korea: $16.1 billion
There has been much written in the news lately about tearing up NAFTA and replacing it with a new trade deal that brings more jobs to American workers. While that may be a laudable goal, it ignores the complexity of the global trade network that has grown up since the neo-liberal trade policies of the 90s took over world commerce. Most Republicans may find it hard to believe, but one of their own standard bearers — George W. Bush by name — was a vocal proponent of the very free trade policies the current president despises.
Trade is not a Republican or Democratic thing. It is the glue that has turned the world into one gigantic marketplace. The structure may have caused severe economic dislocations, but it wasn’t put in place by ordinary people voting at the polls. It was constructed by multinational corporations to allow themselves to maximize profits by outsourcing jobs to places on the globe where wages are lowest.
Today, the majority of vehicles sold in the US every year are imported. Think what disrupting that flow of goods to American shores would do the US economy. Trade, by definition, is a two way street. H. Ross Perot warned in the 1992 presidential campaign about the “giant sucking sound” that would follow as jobs fled to Mexico if NAFTA was signed. He was correct, if only briefly.
Soon the jobs that moved to Mexico began fleeing to countries with even lower wages. For more insight on this phenomenon, see Naomi Klein’s excellent book entitled No Logo about how free trade has affected both importing and exporting countries. If you want to access it from the comfort of your living room, it is available free online in .pdf format.
International trade is a complex topic, one that requires a great deal of thought and study to understand. We hope the accompanying graphic from HowMuch.net will give you a clearer understanding of the automotive sector as it pertains to America.