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Monthly Update: Foreign Trade

Dec '20
Published on 3/2/21
Monthly Update: Foreign Trade

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The Houston-Galveston Customs District handled 341.6 million metric tons (“MT”) of goods and commodities in ’20, a 7.2 percent increase over ’19. These shipments were valued at $196.9 billion, down 16.5 percent from ’19. Throughout the year, the coronavirus affected both global and domestic economic activity. In ’20, Houston’s top import, crude and refined products, increased in weight by 10.4 percent compared to ’19, from 235.1 million MT to 259.6 million MT. However, the value decreased by 18.7 percent, from $106.8 billion to $86.9 billion. 

Houston ranked first in total tonnage and sixth in overall value of shipments among U.S. customs districts in ’20. Houston and New Orleans have been the busiest two customs districts in tonnage for decades. Houston has held the top spot in nine of the past 12 years. 

Houston exported to 214 countries and imported from 194 in ’20. In ’19, the U.S.-China trade war nudged China from second to third place among Houston’s top trading partners. However, in ’20, China became Houston’s #1 trading partner, overtaking Mexico and Brazil. South Korea and Germany rounded out the top five. 

Compared to ’19, export tonnage rose 13.7 percent, whereas while the value of exports fell 14.4 percent. Imports decreased by both measures, slipping 10.5 percent in weight and 20.1 percent in value.  

During ’20, the district handled 97 categories of goods and commodities―everything from gasoline to live animals to cork. The top five exports, accounting for 82.3 percent of all exports by value, were crude and refined products, organic chemicals, plastics, industrial machinery and motor vehicles. The top five imports, accounting for 56.7 percent of all imports by value, were crude and refined products, industrial machinery, electric machinery, motor vehicles, and iron and steel. 

Prepared by Greater Houston Partnership Research Division

Heath Duran
Manager, Research

Patrick Jankowski, CERP
Senior Vice President, Research


Key Economic Indicators Foreign Trade International Business
$196.9 billion

Houston handled $196.9 billion of shipments year-to-date.

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