US-China phase one tracker: China’s purchases of US goods

As of February 2021

Chad P. Bown (PIIE)

March 25, 2021
2021 US-China phase one tracker: China’s purchases of US goods

On February 14, 2020, the Economic and Trade Agreement Between the United States of America and the People's Republic of China: Phase One went into effect. China agreed to expand purchases of certain US goods and services by a combined $200 billion for the two-year period from January 1, 2020, through December 31, 2021, above the 2017 baseline levels. This PIIE Chart tracks China's monthly purchases of US goods covered by the deal, relying on data from both Chinese customs (China's imports) and the US Census Bureau (US exports). It then compares those purchases with the legal agreement's annual commitments, prorated on a monthly basis based on seasonal adjustments, above two baseline scenarios (see methodology below). As set out in the legal agreement, one 2017 baseline scenario allows for use of US export statistics and the other allows for Chinese import statistics.

By the end of 2020, China committed to purchase no less than an additional $63.9 billion of covered goods from the United States relative to these 2017 baselines. Defining the 2017 baseline using Chinese import statistics implied a 2020 purchase commitment of $173.1 billion. In 2020, China's total imports of covered products from the United States were only $99.9 billion, reaching only 58 percent of the commitment. Defining the 2017 baseline using US export statistics implied a 2020 commitment of $159.0 billion. In 2020, US exports to China of covered products were $94.0 billion, reaching only 59 percent of the commitment. (More detail on 2020 is provided below.)

For 2021, China has committed to purchase no less than an additional $98.2 billion of covered goods from the United States relative to these 2017 baselines. Defining the 2017 baseline using US export statistics implies a 2021 target of $193.3 billion (blue in panel a). Defining the 2017 baseline using Chinese import statistics implies a 2021 purchase commitment of $207.4 billion (red in panel a).

The latest numbers for 2021

Through February 2021, China's total imports of covered products from the United States were $23.5 billion, compared with a year-to-date target of $31.1 billion. Over the same period, US exports to China of covered products were $16.9 billion, compared with a year-to-date target of $29.7 billion. Through the second month of 2021, China's purchases of all covered products reached 76 percent (Chinese imports) or 57 percent (US exports) of the year-to-date target.

For covered agricultural products, China committed to an additional $19.5 billion of purchases in 2021 above 2017 levels, implying an annual commitment of $43.6 billion (Chinese imports, panel b) and $40.4 billion (US exports, panel c). Through February 2021, China's imports of covered agricultural products from the United States were $8.7 billion, compared with a year-to-date target of $11.4 billion. Over the same period, US exports to China of covered agricultural products were $5.8 billion, compared with a year-to-date target of $8.1 billion. Through the second month of 2021, China's purchases of covered agricultural products reached 77 percent (Chinese imports) or 72 percent (US exports) of the year-to-date target.

For covered manufactured products, China committed to an additional $44.8 billion of purchases in 2021 above 2017 levels, implying an annual commitment of $123.1 billion (Chinese imports) and $111.3 billion (US exports). Through February 2021, China's imports of covered manufactured products from the United States were $11.6 billion, compared with a year-to-date target of $15.7 billion. Over the same period, US exports to China of covered manufactured products were $9.2 billion, compared with a year-to-date target of $15.0 billion. Through the second month of 2021, China's purchases of covered manufactured products reached 73 percent (Chinese imports) or 61 percent (US exports) of the year-to-date target.

For covered energy products, China committed to an additional $33.9 billion of purchases in 2021 above 2017 levels, implying an annual commitment of $40.7 billion (Chinese imports) and $41.5 billion (US exports). Through February 2021, China's imports of covered energy products from the United States were $3.2 billion, compared with a year-to-date target of $3.9 billion. Over the same period, US exports to China of covered energy products were $1.9 billion, compared with a year-to-date target of $6.6 billion. Through the second month of 2021, China's purchases of covered energy products reached 80 percent (Chinese imports) or 29 percent (US exports) of the year-to-date target.

For all uncovered products—making up 29 percent of China's total goods imports from the United States and 27 percent of US total goods exports to China in 2017—the phase one agreement does not include a legal target. Through February 2021, China's imports of all uncovered products from the United States were $5.8 billion, 13.1 percent lower than in 2017. US exports of all uncovered products to China through January 2021 were $2.7 billion, 0.4 percent higher than over the same period in 2017. (The February US export data for uncovered products will be available on April 7, 2021.)

Though the agreement also sets commitments for China's purchases of certain traded services from the United States, those data are not reported on a monthly basis and are not covered here.

Note on Data Release: This update is based on February 2021 data released by US Census (March 25, 2021) and Chinese customs (March 20, 2021).

The numbers for 2020

Through 2020, China's total imports of covered products from the United States were $99.9 billion, compared with the commitment of $173.1 billion (red in panel a). Over the same period, US exports to China of covered products were $94.0 billion, compared with a commitment of $159.0 billion (blue in panel a). In the first year of the agreement, China's purchases of all covered products only reached 59 percent (US exports) or 58 percent (Chinese imports) of the commitment.

For covered agricultural products, China committed to an additional $12.5 billion of purchases in 2020 above 2017 levels, implying an annual commitment of $36.6 billion (Chinese imports, panel b) and $33.4 billion (US exports, panel c). Through 2020, China's imports of covered agricultural products were $23.6 billion. Over the same period, US exports to China of covered agricultural products were only $27.3 billion. In the first year of the agreement, China's purchases of covered agricultural products only reached 82 percent (US exports) or 64 percent (Chinese imports) of the commitment.

For covered manufactured products, China committed to an additional $32.9 billion of purchases in 2020 above 2017 levels, implying an annual commitment of $111.2 billion (Chinese imports) and $99.4 billion (US exports). Through 2020, China's imports of covered manufactured products were $66.5 billion. Over the same period, US exports to China of covered manufactured products were only $57.0 billion. In the first year of the agreement, China's purchases of covered manufactured products only reached 57 percent (US exports) or 60 percent (Chinese imports) of the commitment.

For covered energy products, China committed to an additional $18.5 billion of purchases in 2020 above 2017 levels, implying an annual commitment of $25.3 billion (Chinese imports) and $26.1 billion (US exports). Through 2020, China's imports of covered energy products were $9.8 billion. Over the same period, US exports to China of covered energy products were only $9.7 billion. In the first year of the agreement, China's purchases of covered energy products only reached 37 percent (US exports) or 39 percent (Chinese imports) of the commitment.

For all uncovered products—making up 29 percent of China's total goods imports from the United States and 27 percent of US total goods exports to China in 2017—the phase one agreement does not include a legal commitment. In 2020, China's imports of all uncovered products from the United States were $35.0 billion, 23.3 percent lower than in 2017. Over the same period, US exports of all uncovered products to China were $30.7 billion, 11.7 percent lower than in 2017.

US-China Phase One tracker: China's purchases of US goods in 2020

Methodological approach

Assessing progress toward meeting the phase one commitments for goods trade requires information from both US export statistics and Chinese import statistics, given that the agreement's Chapter 6, Article 6.2.6 states "Official Chinese trade data and official US trade data shall be used to determine whether this Chapter has been implemented." One implication is that there are two sets of monthly data to track (Chinese imports and US exports). A second is that there are two different annual, and hence monthly, targets, since the 2017 baseline level of Chinese imports differs from the 2017 baseline level of US exports. Finally, the products covered by the purchase commitments are set out at the 4-, 6-, 8-, or 10-digit level in the agreement's Attachment to Annex 6.1; these are then mapped to the US or Chinese trade statistics for 2017 and for 2020 and 2021. Starting with our update of this PIIE Chart on October 26, 2020, we have included US export product 8800 (in addition to 8802, aircraft) in "covered manufacturing" and the total, shifting it out of the "uncovered" category.

Each month's purchase target is seasonally adjusted to reflect that month's relative weight for those products in the 2017 trade data. Note that prorating the year-end commitment to a monthly target is for illustrative purposes only. Nothing in the text of the agreement indicates China must meet anything other than the year-end commitments.

For US goods exports, the agreement is estimated to cover products that made up $95.1 billion, or 73 percent, of total US goods exports to China ($129.8 billion) in 2017. Of the 2017 total exports of covered products, exports worth $20.9 billion were in agriculture, $66.5 billion were in manufacturing, and $7.6 billion were in energy. Products uncovered by the agreement—and thus with no targets for 2020 or 2021—made up 27 percent ($34.7 billion) of total US goods exports to China in 2017.

For Chinese goods imports, the deal is estimated to cover products that made up $109.2 billion, or 71 percent, of total Chinese goods imports from the United States ($154.9 billion) in 2017. Of the 2017 total imports of covered products, imports worth $24.1 billion were in agriculture, $78.3 billion were in manufacturing, and $6.8 billion were in energy. Uncovered products made up 29 percent ($45.6 billion) of total Chinese goods imports from the United States in 2017.

For both the US export data and the Chinese import data, the 2020 phase one commitments of additional trade (on top of 2017 baseline) are $12.5 billion (agriculture), $32.9 billion (manufactured goods), and $18.5 billion (energy). The 2021 phase one commitments of additional trade (on top of 2017 baseline) are $19.5 billion (agriculture), $44.8 billion (manufactured goods), and $33.9 billion (energy). These commitments are found in the agreement's Annex 6.1.

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