Mexico has either just overtaken China as leading exporter to U.S. — or it’s had title all year

by user


Bloomberg is running a story saying Mexico has just eclipsed China as the largest exporter to the U.S. The rival news service is using a complicated formula, using the 12-month rolling average of the share of U.S. imports.

But really, America’s southern neighbor has held the title for all of 2023. Here at MarketWatch, we like simpler calculations. Drawing on a quarterly series measuring trade on a balance of payments basis, Mexico took the lead in the third quarter of 2022.

The two series are not wildly different from one another. The data Bloomberg uses is the more timely data, based on documents collected by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The balance of payments data meanwhile is adjusted to be consistent with gross domestic product calculations, and it’s produced quarterly as opposed to monthly. A few differences: the BOP data counts as imports the purchases of goods abroad by the U.S. military or the fuel purchases made in foreign ports by U.S. air and ocean carriers; there are a few subtractions as well.

The narrative is basically the same whichever report is used. The U.S.-China trade relationship is deteriorating, and Mexico has been a beneficiary as companies look to countries with friendlier governments.

There’s a financial element to this narrative as well: one of the hottest currency pairs this year has been the Mexican peso vs. the Japanese yen
which has surged 28% this year. The dollar meanwhile has climbed 5% vs. the offshore Chinese yuan


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