Long known as the world's largest importer, the US is now emphasizing its export capabilities as the country's exports of petroleum, automobiles and agriculture rise. In particular, the US to China trade lane appears to be on the increase. According to the US-China Business Council, China is now the US' third largest export market behind Canada and Mexico.
In 2011, US exports to China, by value, was a record high - $103.9bn. Agriculture, computers, electronics, chemicals and transport equipment were the major exports. Apparently this growth is not just a recent trend. Since 2000, US exports to China have increased 542% while exports to the rest of the world increased only 80%. After the recent recession, this trade lane regained momentum faster than US's exports to any other place in the world.
By tonnage, US exports to China by air increased only 0.2% but by containerized vessel (reported in kg), tonnage increased 10% from 2010. This higher increase in ocean freight may be attributed to a shift away from air freight - due to high oil prices or it may just be due to the types of commodity exported.
In any case, ports such as Los Angeles recorded record years for exports. For example, for 2011, the Port of Los Angeles reported outbound container volumes increased 14.5%, the second straight year of record exports.
It's still too early to predict what 2012 may hold for this trade lane. January and February statistics for the US West Coast ports were less than stellar due in part to the timing of the Chinese New Year and early restocking that was noted in December. However, the US government's National Export Initiative, a plan to double exports by 2014, is encouraging this trend and ports such as the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have implemented plans to assist US companies as part of this initiative.