How Uk Us Trade Has Changed Over Time Michael Mroczek 191461 Unsplash
20 July 2018
4 minute read

During US President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Britain, trade talks were high on the agenda. The following charts, based on League of Nations data, compare US-UK trade in 1926 with the situation 90 years on.


United States' Top Trading Partners

While the UK is today among the United States’ most important trading partners, it has slipped down the pecking order since 1926.

Us Imports Charts
Note: Charts show % share of total imports/exports. Source: League of Nations and the US Census Bureau


UK's Top Trading Partners

By contrast, the United States is of similar importance to the UK today as it was in 1926. It is the UK’s largest export market by some distance, and it imports only marginally less than first-placed Germany.

Uk Imports Charts
Note: Charts show % share of total imports/exports. Source: League of Nations and ONS


Significance of US-UK Trade in Goods

The waning importance of UK trade to the United States over this period is part of an even longer trend.

Line Chart 1
Source: Bank of England and the US Census Bureau


Real Value of US-UK Trade in Goods (2017, £bn)

Until the 1950s, the United States exported far more goods to the UK than vice versa, particularly during WWII. Since the early 2000s, that relationship has inverted, although US service exports (not depicted) have reduced the trade deficit somewhat.

Line Chart 2
Source: Bank of England


UK Top 5 Imports and Exports to US

The nature of UK-US trade has changed significantly. In 1926, the UK largely imported raw materials and exported textiles, whereas in 2016 trading centred on more sophisticated production.

Imports (1926)

Source: Butler (1930)

Exports (1926)

Source: Butler (1930)

Imports (2016)

Source: ONS

Exports (2016)

Source: ONS