China was the United States’ third-ranked source of imports in February, its lowest ranking since February 2004, or 180 months.
Until February, China had not even slipped into the No. 2 ranking in almost 12 years except on two occasions, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released today.
The data released today is but the first chapter in the developing story on the impact of the fast-moving coronavirus outbreak on U.S. trade and, more specifically, U.S.-China trade.
But, it’s important to note that February data measures not the cratering U.S. economy, which received more bad news today on unemployment claims. The U.S. economy was solid in February.
Rather, it measures the degree to which Chinese manufacturing was brought to a standstill by the outbreak of coronavirus on the tail end of the Chinese New Year.
The weakening U.S. economy won’t start to reveal itself in trade data until the release of the March data, about one month from now, and it will almost certainly begin showing declines in trade not just with China but with other leading trade partners.
For the month of February, U.S. imports from China fell 31.45% from January and 31.27% from the previous February.
The total, $22.81 billion, was below the $29.08 billion from Mexico and $24.35 billion from Canada. In October, Chinese imports stood at $40.15 billion. That is a 43.17% decline in just four months.