Foreign Trade of the United States

November 1, 1930

Report Outline
Decline of American Foreign Trade in 1930
Course of American Foreign Trade, 1920–1930
Changing Character of American Foreign Trade
Geographic Distribution of American Foreign Trade
Special Focus

Decline of American Foreign Trade in 1930

Drop in Value of Exports and Imports

During the first nine months of 1930 the foreign trade of the United States (exports plus imports) totaled $5,360,347,000. This total was nearly $2,000,000,000 below the total for 1929, when foreign trade reached its highest level since 1920: it was only about $375,000,000 above the total for 1922, when foreign trade touched its lowest level since 1915.

During the fourth quarter of the year American exports ordinarily show a large expansion, due to the movement overseas of the exportable surpluses of staple crops. Imports ordinarily show a declining tendency during these months, having reached their peak for the year in the spring. While a material improvement in exports may be anticipated for the current quarter, the present prospect is that total foreign trade for the full year will be approximately 25 per cent below 1929, and perhaps 20 per cent below the average for the five years 1925 to 1929 inclusive.

The value of American exports during the first nine months of this year showed a drop of 23 per cent from 1929, and the value of imports a drop of 28.5 per cent. Comparisons by months with 1929 and with the averages of the last five years are given at the head of the following page. The table shows the quarter just closed to have been the worst of the year to date, whether compared with the first two quarters of 1930 or with the corresponding quarter of earlier years. Exports showed a gain of some $20,000,000 in September over August, but this was considerably less than the usual seasonal gain. The increase of about $10,000,000 in imports during the month, on the other hand, was the first September increase in five years. During July and August the volume of imports had been depressed to abnormally low levels, due to the importation in earlier months of dutiable goods in amounts largely in excess of existing demand, with the purpose of escaping the higher duties that went into force with the Hawley-Smoot Act the middle of June.

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Exports and Imports