WASHINGTON —The U.S. tire sector trade deficit shrank slightly last year as the value of exports shot up nearly 62 percent while the value of imports rose close to 10 percent in 2017 to a record $13.8 billion.
As a result, the U.S. trade deficit in tires slipped to $9.66 billion last year—down from $10 billion in 2016—reflecting $4.1 billion in exports and $13.8 billion in imports.
It's the first time the tire sector trade deficit has shrunk in recent memory.
Canada, Mexico and Australia were the top three destinations for tires exported from the U.S., accounting for nearly 72 percent of U.S. exports by value.
On the import side of the ledger, China regained the title as the U.S.'s largest trading partner in tires, as the value of its overall exports to the U.S. jumped 28.2 percent to $1.95 billion a year after the value of its shipments to the U.S. slid 1.9 percent.
China's gain over 2016 came from higher shipments of OTR, farm and other non-highway tires, according to the Commerce Department data.
China's exports of passenger, light truck and medium truck/bus tires to the U.S., by contrast, all declined last year from 2016, reflecting the continued imposition of elevated import duties on consumer tires and the shift by several leading Chinese tire makers of truck tire production to plants in Thailand, Indonesia or Vietnam.
A year after landing at the top of the list of U.S. trading partners, Canada slid to third on the 2017 list, eclipsed by Thailand as well as China. Imports from Thailand last year were valued at $1.86 billion, 35.8 percent higher than in 2016.
The value of Canada's imports slid 2.5 percent to $1.54 billion.
South Korea and Japan rounded out the top five at $1.34 billion and $1.09 billion, respectively. Both countries' imports were down in value from 2016, by 6.3 and 7.6 percent, respectively.
Mexico, Indonesia and Taiwan were the next largest sources of imported tires, valued at $839.6 million, $749.8 million and $491.4 million, respectively. All were up measurably vs. 2016.
Of its major trading partners, the U.S. held a surplus with just one country, Mexico, which took in $1.2 billion worth of tires from the U.S. last year and exported $839.6 million to the U.S., resulting in a trade surplus of $360.2 million.
Canada was the No. 1 export destination for U.S.-made tires at $1.49 billion, but Canada's $1.54 billion in shipments to the U.S., resulted in near equilibrium. The next largest export destination was Australia, which took in $257.7 million worth of products from the U.S.