Since the middle of the 1970s, the US has run a deficit in merchandise trade, meaning that payments for imports exceeded receipts for exports. This large and growing deficit on the merchandise trade balance hit US$ 883 billion in the second quarter of 2008.
Due to the recession, there were dramatic import declines in excess of exports during the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 which reduced the merchandise trade deficit by 49% to US$ 449 billion in the second quarter of 2009. This trend of declining imports resulted in the lowest quarterly deficit level since early 2002. The merchandise trade deficit then increased to US$ 686 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013, with much of the difference from 2008 levels being attributable to a US$ 158 billion increase in net exports of crude oil and petroleum products.
Crude oil and petroleum products play a significant role in the balance of US trade accounts, according to the EIA, and the value of petroleum trade can be impacted by both changes in price and volume. The US has historically imported more petroleum and petroleum products than exported. The deficit hit US$ 452 billion in the third quarter of 2008,as a result of a sharp run up in prices. By the first quarter of the following year, the petroleum trade deficit improved to US$ 174 billion as energy prices and domestic demand fell and US production increased. From the first quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of 2011, the deficit increased to US$ 346 billion, because of continued economic recovery in the US and higher crude oil prices. Since then, prices have remained high as exports of petroleum products have increased and crude oil imports have declined. As of the fourth quarter of last year, the deficit has stood at US$ 203 billion.
Trade in petroleum and its products have contributed to the overall US goods deficit, but it would still exist even if the US did not import oil. Since 2009, exports of petroleum and petroleum products have played a growing role in reducing the overall merchandise trade deficit. While there have been recent increase in crude oil exports, nearly all of the petroleum exports through 2013 were refined petroleum products.
Adapted by Claira Lloyd
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