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Where America sends its planes and 25 other manufacturing exports

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Ben Bloker // Wikimedia Commons

Where America sends its planes and 25 other manufacturing exports

Export numbers across the board in the United States have declined this year, losing $1.8 billion between August and September of 2019 alone. Soybean exports dropped by $1 billion, along with vehicles, engines, and other automotive parts. The overall declines are in no small part due to a trade war with China and other tariffs imposed on exporting goods: More than 30 states saw double-digit slumps in Chinese exports through September 2019.

As America's export landscape continues to evolve, Stacker looked at 2018 data from the Census Bureau to curate a gallery of 26 major manufacturing products produced in the United States and where those products get exported to. The data tell a story of exactly where the products are going, how much is being exported, what percentage of U.S. exports that is, and how much money the U.S. makes off each product. You’ll also learn which companies are among the largest exporters and how their particular industry has been faring over the last few years—whether sales are down or up, and why.

Read on to discover where the United States’ main manufacturing exports are heading, like air conditioning machines, which account for $2.7 billion of the country’s total exports. You’ll also discover some of the biggest players for those specific exports and be able to unpack just why so many people think it’s illegal to export cars out of the United States. 

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Srinuan hirunwat // Shutterstock

Fertilizers

- U.S. total exports: $4.2 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Canada ($1.1 billion, 25.5% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Brazil ($968.4 million, 23.3%)
--- #3. Mexico ($288.7 million, 6.9%)
--- #4. China ($248.5 million, 6.0%)
--- #5. Australia ($228.2 million, 5.5%)

Demand for every type of fertilizer has increased each year since 2014. However, farmers have struggled over the last year with exporting fertilizer because of tariffs and the in-flux North American trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. That struggle is reflected in numbers; Mosaic, the largest fertilizer manufacturer in the United States, recently saw its stock fall more than 6% after a third-quarter loss.

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NOAA Marine Debris Program // Flickr

Plastics and articles thereof

- U.S. total exports: $66.6 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Mexico ($17.9 billion, 26.8% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Canada ($13.9 billion, 20.8%)
--- #3. China ($5.7 billion, 8.6%)
--- #4. Belgium ($2.7 billion, 4.1%)
--- #5. Japan ($1.9 billion, 2.8%)

Plastic exports are at an all-time low right now, partly due to stringent import restrictions on the material in different countries around the world, particularly India. Dow Chemical is both the largest producer and leading exporter of plastics in the United States, focusing on performance plastics—a type of plastic that can withstand volatile environments.

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Pixabay

Tools and metal cutlery

- U.S. total exports: $4.8 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Canada ($1.4 billion, 28.0% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Mexico ($933.9 million, 19.3%)
--- #3. Germany ($249.3 million, 5.2%)
--- #4. China ($194.0 million, 4.0%)
--- #5. United Kingdom ($174.9 million, 3.6%)

According to IndustryWeek’s Michael Collins, the tool and cutlery markets have been declining for decades and are probably unsalvageable. Since 1965, the American export market for tools has decreased by 23%, down to 5% of the world market for tools. Oneida, a cutlery company that’s been in business since 1880, is a major exporter in the market.

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Pixabay

Nuclear reactors and fuel

- U.S. total exports: $215.8 million
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Taiwan ($44.3 million, 20.5% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. United Arab Emirates ($35.9 million, 16.7%)
--- #3. Spain ($29.1 million, 13.5%)
--- #4. Sweden ($25.4 million, 11.8%)
--- #5. France ($17.5 million, 8.1%)

For the past 15 years, nuclear reactor needs have remained steady even though many nuclear power plants have shut down. Modifying currently operating plants to take on more power-generating capacity has kept the reactor market strong. General Electric, in collaboration with Japanese company Hitachi, is the largest producer of nuclear reactors in the country, and the third largest in the world.

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Hywit Dimyadi // Shutterstock

Steam turbines

- U.S. total exports: $313.4 million
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. United Kingdom ($36.9 million, 11.8% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Mexico ($21.7 million, 6.9%)
--- #3. Canada ($20.6 million, 6.6%)
--- #4. Iraq ($18.9 million, 6.0%)
--- #5. Brazil ($16.6 million, 5.3%)

As long as gas, oil, and nuclear power plants are necessary around the world to generate power, we’ll need steam turbines—so the market isn’t in a whole lot of trouble at the moment. In fact, they can be so in demand that there are occasionally illegal shipments of turbine parts, like what happened in July 2019 when Turbine Services Ltd. was searched by federal officials.

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Sopotnicki // Shutterstock

Turbojets, turbo propellers, gas turbines

- U.S. total exports: $9.0 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Mexico ($1.1 billion, 12.5% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Canada ($712.5 million, 8.0%)
--- #3. United Kingdom ($573.2 million, 6.4%)
--- #4. Japan ($556.8 million, 6.2%)
--- #5. Singapore ($531.3 million, 5.9%)

The gas turbine market is failing, decreasing year after year—even as other jet engine components continue to have a strong export rate, though with increased concern due to tariffs. GE Aviation has a legacy of being one of the best in this business; it created the first jet engine and today supplies the major aircraft companies with turbojets, turbo propellers, and gas turbines.

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Pixabay

Air conditioning machines

- U.S. total exports: $2.7 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Canada ($1.3 billion, 47.1% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Mexico ($515.3 million, 19.3%)
--- #3. United Kingdom ($74.2 million, 2.8%)
--- #4. Saudi Arabia ($67.1 million, 2.5%)
--- #5. China ($56.2 million, 2.1%)

The market for global exports of air conditioning machines from the United States is up this year by about $100 million—but it’s the first increase since 2015. Regardless, the market continues to slowly increase, boosted by international sales from companies like CB Sales International, one of the leading exporters of HVAC systems.

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Pixabay

Bulldozers, graders, scrapers

- U.S. total exports: $5.2 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Canada ($2.9 billion, 55.9% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Australia ($312.3 million, 6.1%)
--- #3. Mexico ($253.8 million, 4.9%)
--- #4. Belgium ($197.4 million, 3.8%)
--- #5. Germany ($111.7 million, 2.2%)

As of 2016, heavy construction equipment like bulldozers, graders, and scrapers were exporting at an eight-year low. It’s because of a combination of things: lasting recession effects, increased foreign competition, and cheaper foreign products. Caterpillar, a producer for bulldozers and other construction equipment, doesn’t expect to meet its projected earnings this year thanks to global economic uncertainty and Chinese competition.

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Bob Simons // Wikimedia Commons

Electric motors and generators

- U.S. total exports: $4.1 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Mexico ($1.1 billion, 26.9% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Canada ($849.7 million, 21.0%)
--- #3. United Kingdom ($210.1 million, 5.2%)
--- #4. China ($203.7 million, 5.0%)
--- #5. Germany ($188.8 million, 4.7%)

More than 30 million electric motors are sold annually and growth of the market continues to increase; it’s expected to go up another several billion dollars by 2021. Regal Beloit, in Wisconsin, is a star in this industry—almost every variable-speed residential HVAC system in the country has a Regal Beloit motor.

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Pixabay

Electric storage batteries

- U.S. total exports: $3.7 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Canada ($1.0 billion, 27.6% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Mexico ($707.1 million, 19.0%)
--- #3. Netherlands ($397.4 million, 10.7%)
--- #4. United Kingdom ($220.3 million, 5.9%)
--- #5. China ($145.4 million, 3.9%)

Electric storage batteries are critical as we move to more renewable energy sources; a windmill, for example, can’t bank up energy unless there’s a place to store it—hence the battery. Panasonic is one of the major U.S. battery makers and exporters, producing mostly lithium batteries with a variety of shapes and sizes.

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Pixabay

Tractors

- U.S. total exports: $5.8 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Canada ($3.4 billion, 58.3% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Australia ($413.5 million, 7.1%)
--- #3. Mexico ($280.9 million, 4.8%)
--- #4. Germany ($164.2 million, 2.8%)
--- #5. Russia ($116.9 million, 2.0%)

Even though the United States was the top exporter of big farm equipment as of 2017, the market is still shaky because of trade wars and tariffs with China. John Deere, one of the major manufacturers and exporters of tractors and farm equipment, saw its dealers take sometimes a 15% cut in profit since the beginning of the tariffs; some dealerships saw sales decrease by 50%.

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Pixabay

Cars and vehicles for transport of passengers

- U.S. total exports: $51.4 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Canada ($15.0 billion, 29.2% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. China ($6.7 billion, 13.0%)
--- #3. Germany ($5.9 billion, 11.4%)
--- #4. Mexico ($3.0 billion, 5.9%)
--- #5. United Arab Emirates ($1.9 billion, 3.8%)

As trade wars continue with China and other countries, export rates for passenger vehicles continue to fall. Unfortunately, that’s compounded by an already negative impression of passenger vehicle exports. Many people think it’s illegal, thanks to both the government and a gray area when companies like Ford don’t sell a certain model abroad.

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RN GLZLZ // Flickr

Vehicles for transport of goods

- U.S. total exports: $15.5 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Canada ($11.8 billion, 76.1% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Mexico ($750.4 million, 4.8%)
--- #3. Australia ($503.9 million, 3.2%)
--- #4. United Arab Emirates ($419.6 million, 2.7%)
--- #5. Chile ($323.8 million, 2.1%)

Together with soybeans and passenger cars, truck exports fell by $2.5 billion in September, thanks to the addition of more tariffs and a trade war. The largest commercial truck manufacturer in the United States is Freightliner—and it’s actually owned by Daimler, a German company.

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Pixabay

Tanks and armored vehicles

- U.S. total exports: $1.5 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Afghanistan ($437.7 million, 29.4% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Japan ($206.6 million, 13.9%)
--- #3. Korea, South ($123.7 million, 8.3%)
--- #4. Canada ($120.7 million, 8.1%)
--- #5. Egypt ($100.7 million, 6.8%)

The United States fuels about 36% of military exports in the world—including tanks and armored vehicles—in a market that continues to increase every year. Chrysler, one of the major car manufacturers in the country, has even had a dedicated tank division in the past to help supply the exports.

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Remi Jouan // Wikimedia Commons

Motorcycles

- U.S. total exports: $1.3 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Belgium ($453.7 million, 35.6% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Canada ($215.4 million, 16.9%)
--- #3. Japan ($121.3 million, 9.5%)
--- #4. Australia ($94.9 million, 7.4%)
--- #5. Singapore ($87.0 million, 6.8%)

The motorcycle export market has increased by nearly 30% since 2014, and almost half of that happened in just the last year. But tariffs are taking a toll in the industry—even giants like Harley Davidson are having to retool how they do business to avoid excessive costs. Harley, for example, is moving manufacturing of motorcycles bound for China out of the U.S. and into Thailand.

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pjs2005

Civilian aircraft

- U.S. total exports: $130.7 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. China ($18.2 billion, 13.9% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. France ($13.4 billion, 10.3%)
--- #3. United Kingdom ($11.3 billion, 8.6%)
--- #4. Canada ($9.4 billion, 7.2%)
--- #5. Germany ($8.4 billion, 6.5%)

Aircraft exports are not doing well. In 2019, the market took a $2.2 billion hit. The main source was Boeing—it’s ill-fated 737 MAX becoming grounded indefinitely had a major impact on the market.

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Ben Bloker // Wikimedia Commons

Non-civilian aircraft and spacecraft

- U.S. total exports: $2.3 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. France ($322.1 million, 13.7% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Taiwan ($250.4 million, 10.7%)
--- #3. India ($244.9 million, 10.4%)
--- #4. United Kingdom ($244.1 million, 10.4%)
--- #5. French Guiana ($188.5 million, 8.0%)

Every time a new military aircraft is built, there’s an opportunity for export sales—so it’s doubtful this market will decrease any time soon. For example, in the beginning of 2019, Lockheed-Martin, the Maryland-based aeronautics manufacturer, expected an export market boost of more than $20 billion for an assembly line it hoped to open in India, making F-16 fighter jets.

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Alex Krasavtsev // Wikimedia Commons

Ships and boats

- U.S. total exports: $2.6 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Canada ($638.3 million, 24.5% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Mexico ($377.3 million, 14.5%)
--- #3. United Arab Emirates ($187.3 million, 7.2%)
--- #4. Israel ($95.0 million, 3.6%)
--- #5. Australia ($94.5 million, 3.6%)

In 2018, boat exports from the United States hit an all-time high, 15% more than 2017 and raking in $3.3 billion. However, thanks to new tariffs, export rates declined in the second half of 2018. Marquis Yacht in Wisconsin has faced issues thanks to the tariffs as well; exports are 30% of the company’s business, and the extra cost has made international sales flounder.

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Pixabay

Microscopes

- U.S. total exports: $377.5 million
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Netherlands ($74.3 million, 19.7% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. China ($62.9 million, 16.7%)
--- #3. Japan ($33.2 million, 8.8%)
--- #4. Korea, South ($31.1 million, 8.2%)
--- #5. Germany ($30.3 million, 8.0%)

Thanks to increased corporate and government investments, the microscope market is growing and will continue to do so, expected to reach $9.1 billion by 2024. Bruker, one of the leading exporters that’s based in Massachusetts, will likely take even more of the market share with its new release of a standalone microscope to see infrared emissions.

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Ilya.K // Shutterstock

Clocks and watches

- U.S. total exports: $1.5 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Hong Kong ($514.9 million, 33.3% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Switzerland ($330.5 million, 21.3%)
--- #3. Canada ($153.3 million, 9.9%)
--- #4. Mexico ($98.5 million, 6.4%)
--- #5. Japan ($52.0 million, 3.4%)

Trade wars between the United States and China negatively impacted the clock and watch industry; the first half of 2019 saw exports drop 2.6% in Hong Kong alone. Things haven’t always been that bad, though—at one point the market was climbing every year, like when Masterclock (which makes timing systems and related equipment) received an award in 2016 for making a significant contribution to U.S. exports.

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Geoff Alexander // Flickr

Musical instruments

- U.S. total exports: $749.1 million
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Japan ($114.2 million, 15.2% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Canada ($111.1 million, 14.8%)
--- #3. Netherlands ($69.7 million, 9.3%)
--- #4. Germany ($61.4 million, 8.2%)
--- #5. United Kingdom ($53.9 million, 7.2%)

Just behind Japan’s Yamaha, Nashville-based Gibson is the world’s second-largest music instrument manufacturer. The company’s guitars and accessories are regularly sent around the world, but manufacturers have run into some hard times over the past few years. Regulations on certain types of wood (such as rosewood) have have recently dropped exports by up to 28%.

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pneutin // Flickr

Revolvers and pistols

- U.S. total exports: $172.1 million
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Thailand ($61.5 million, 35.7% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Philippines ($27.3 million, 15.8%)
--- #3. Canada ($26.8 million, 15.6%)
--- #4. United Arab Emirates ($6.7 million, 3.9%)
--- #5. Germany ($6.7 million, 3.9%)

In 2016, the United States exported more than 375,000 firearms. The export totals are on a cycle; we’re currently on an upswing. SIG Sauer is the country’s largest firearms exporter—its latest contract is to manufacture 72,400 rifles for the Indian Army.

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Isabelo Tabanguil // www.dod.defense.gov

Bombs and grenades

- U.S. total exports: $4.1 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Saudi Arabia ($1.3 billion, 31.1% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. United Arab Emirates ($503.5 million, 12.4%)
--- #3. Australia ($252.6 million, 6.2%)
--- #4. Japan ($238.0 million, 5.9%)
--- #5. Israel ($172.6 million, 4.2%)

In the first nine months of 2019, bomb and grenade exports from the United States increased by 3.08% when compared to the same time period in 2018. Aerojet Ordnance Tennessee recently celebrated its 7 millionth M67 hand grenade body assembly; the company mainly supplies them to the military and other international defense markets.

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Rabbitmindphoto // Shutterstock

Ceramic products

- U.S. total exports: $2.1 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Canada ($387.1 million, 18.8% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Mexico ($333.1 million, 16.2%)
--- #3. Germany ($173.6 million, 8.5%)
--- #4. China ($148.2 million, 7.2%)
--- #5. Korea, South ($117.2 million, 5.7%)

By far, the largest exported ceramic product from the United States is lab products, operating in a $625.9 million market—that’s down from $626.5 million the market brought in 2017. The products, exported by companies like GC America and Rauschert, include low-alkaline dishes for use in things like growing crystals and chemical digestion processes.

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Pixabay

Glass and glassware

- U.S. total exports: $5.8 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Canada ($1.7 billion, 30.0% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Mexico ($873.9 million, 15.0%)
--- #3. Germany ($724.6 million, 12.5%)
--- #4. China ($446.7 million, 7.7%)
--- #5. Japan ($384.7 million, 6.6%)

Viracon in Minnesota isn’t just the biggest glass fabricator in the United States, it’s also an exporting powerhouse, a function the business began in 1987. The company makes insulating glass, tempered glass, decorative glass, and laminated glass.

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Pixabay

Rubber and articles thereof

- U.S. total exports: $14.0 billion
- Top countries exported to:
--- #1. Canada ($4.1 billion, 29.1% of U.S. exports)
--- #2. Mexico ($3.6 billion, 26.0%)
--- #3. China ($701.8 million, 5.0%)
--- #4. Brazil ($463.8 million, 3.3%)
--- #5. Australia ($453.7 million, 3.2%)

The U.S. exports a lot of rubber, sure—but did you know it’s the world’s second-largest exporter of rubber pipes, just behind Germany? The pipes are used for everything from hoses and vacuum brakes to lab equipment and mining. The rubber industry is doing pretty well, too; demand is expected to rise 2.7% every year through 2023.

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