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Monthly Update: Foreign Trade

Annual '18 Data
Published on 3/6/19
Monthly Update: Foreign Trade

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The Houston-Galveston Customs District handled 289.2 million metric tons of goods and commodities in ’18, a 9.0 percent increase over ’17. Those shipments were valued at $233.3 billion, up 21.5 percent from ’17, which was the largest increase among the nation’s 20 busiest districts.

Overall Foreign Trade

Houston ranked first in tonnage and seventh in value among U.S. customs districts in ’18. Houston and New Orleans have been the busiest two districts in tonnage for decades. Houston has held the top spot in seven of the past 10 years.

FT Rankings

Houston exported to 215 countries and imported from 195 in ’18. Mexico remains the region’s top trading partner, followed by China, Brazil, the Netherlands and South Korea. Even Kiribati and Palau, island nations in the Micronesia region of the western Pacific Ocean, received cargoes shipped from Houston last year.

Foreign Trade Countries

For the sixth year in a row, Houston exported more than it imported. Over the past six years, the value of Houston’s exports increased 9.1 percent, while the value of imports decreased 24.6 percent. The decrease is primarily due to a drop in both the value and quantity of imported crude oil.  


The district handled goods and commodities from 97 trade categories in ’18―everything from gasoline to live animals to cork. The top five exports, accounting for 81.8 percent of all exports by value, were crude and refined products, chemicals, industrial machinery, plastics and motor vehicles. The top five imports, accounting for 63.2 percent of all imports by value, were crude and refined products, industrial machinery, iron and steel, motor vehicles and chemicals. 

Patrick Jankowski, CERP
Senior Vice President, Research

Melissa Verhoef, PhD
Analyst, Research

exportsimportsinternational businesskey economic indicator
$233.3 billion

Houston handled $233.3 billion of shipments in '18

Executive Partners