California Keeps Top Trading State Status

Trade statistics released this month by the U.S. Department of Commerce show that California remained a top trading state in 2021.

California exported $175.12 billion worth of goods to the world in 2021. As usual, computer and electronic products made up the bulk of exports at 22.6% ($39.69 billion).

Non-electrical machinery followed at 11.6% and $20.32 billion; followed by chemicals at 10% and $17.58 billion; transportation equipment at 9.2% and $16.14 billion; and agricultural products at 8% and $14.17 billion.

California was the top importing state and the second largest exporting state in 2021. The increase in trade, both exports and imports, during the COVID-19 pandemic contributed in part to congestion seen in California ports this past year.

Trade Overview

In 2021, the United States exported a total of $1.753 trillion in goods to the world and imported $2.832 trillion, creating a goods deficit of $1.079 trillion. U.S. exports increased by 23.1% in 2021, while imports also increased by 21.28%.

California’s $175.12 billion of exports in 2021 was an increase of 10.86% from the previous year’s total of $156.1 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce statistics.

Manufactured exports from California totaled $149.311 billion in 2021; this was an 11.75% increase from $133.601 in 2020. Exports recovered to be closer to pre-pandemic levels as California manufacturing exports totaled $149.634 billion in 2019. Transportation equipment exports were one of the few products that showed a decline in 2021, decreasing by 7.13%.

Agricultural and livestock product exports from California totaled $14.65 billion in 2021, a 5.71% increase from $13.76 billion in 2020. Exports of processed foods increased 13.26% from 2020, totaling $11.07 billion in 2021.

California’s exports of waste and scrap, and oils, gas, minerals and ores both increased significantly in 2021 from recent levels. Waste and scrap exports totaled $6.38 billion in 2021, an increase of 37.81% from $4.63 billion in 2020.

Exports of oil, gas, minerals and ores totaled $981 million in 2021. This was an increase of 200% from $327 million in 2021 and an increase of 34% from 2019 levels.


For 2021, California’s import trade totaled $470.749 billion, up 18.91% from the previous year and up 15.4% from 2019. Imports increased in almost all categories, but most notably California’s No. 1 import of computers and electronic products increased by 13.76% from 2020.

Imports of miscellaneous manufactured goods and electrical equipment, appliances, and components also increased by 43.92% and 29.96%, respectively, from 2020.

Imports of oil and gas also saw a significant increase of 83.41% in 2021. Imports of agriculture and livestock increased by 17.1% in 2021, totaling $17.008 billion.

The only industries that saw decreased imports in 2021 were textile mill products and fish and marine products. Textile mill products decreased by 44.19%, after an unusually high import year in 2020. Fish and other marine products decreased by 4.73% between 2021 and 2020.

Trading Partners

California’s top five export markets remained the same in 2021, in order: Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and South Korea. There was some shuffling with the next five export partners to round out the top 10. Taiwan remained as California’s sixth largest export partner, followed by Germany, Hong Kong, India taking the ninth spot, and finally, the Netherlands.

• Exports from California to Mexico totaled $27.23 billion in 2021, maintaining the country’s spot as California’s top export partner. Exports increased by 13.22% compared to 2020.

• Canada remained California’s second largest export destination with $17.89 billion in exports. Exports to Canada increased by 11.78% in 2021 compared to 2020.

• California exports to China totaled $16.719 billion in 2021, an 11.4% increase from the year before.

• Exports from California to Japan totaled $11.86 billion in 2021. Exports increased by 12.28% between 2020 and 2021.

• South Korean imports of California goods totaled $11.625 billion in 2021, an 18.69% increase compared to 2020.

• Taiwan remained California’s sixth largest export partner in 2021, importing $8.94 billion worth of goods, a 21.096% increase from 2020.

• Exports from California to Germany totaled $7.6 billion in 2021, a 17.64% increase from 2020.

• California exports to Hong Kong totaled $6.76 billion in 2021, an increase of 7.148% from the previous year.

• India moved up into the ninth position from the 10th last year with $6.673 billion worth of imports. California exports to India increased by 35.1% from 2020 to 2021.

• Exports from California to the Netherlands totaled $6.107 billion in 2021, a 7.8% increase from 2020.

CalChamber Position

California is one of the 10 largest economies in the world with a gross state product of more than $3 trillion. International trade and investment are major parts of our economic engine that broadly benefit businesses, communities, consumers and state government. California’s economy is diverse, and the state’s prosperity is tied to exports and imports of both goods and services by California-based companies, to exports and imports through California’s transportation gateways, and to movement of human and capital resources.

Although trade is a nationally determined policy issue, its impact on California is immense. California exports to more than 225 foreign markets. Trade offers the opportunity to expand the role of California’s exports. In its broadest terms, trade can literally feed the world and raise the living standards of those around us.

The California Chamber of Commerce supports expansion of international trade and investment, fair and equitable market access for California products abroad, and elimination of disincentives that impede the international competitiveness of California business.

Staff Contact: Susanne T. Stirling