In the United States, most producers focus on meeting the demands of the domestic market. Some, however, produce goods and services for export to foreign markets. Other businesses import those goods and services for which there is a demand or the United States does not produce. Half of the United States's trade occurs with Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Net exports, or the balance of trade, is equal to the value of all exports minus the value of all imports. Net exports in the United States are negative because the value of imports exceeds the value of exports. This is referred to as a balance of trade deficit.
Other countries, like China, Germany, and Japan, have balance of trade surpluses because the value of their exports exceeds that of their imports. Surprisingly, even though the United States has a balance of trade deficit, it is still the world's largest exporter with 12% of the global share, compared to China with only 6.4%.
The balance of trade can be further broken down into the balance of trade in goods and the balance of trade in services. For the United States, the balance of trade in goods is what contributes to the trade deficit. Americans have a preference for foreign consumer goods and resources. On the other hand, the United States tends to be a net exporter of services. America's transportation services and logistical know-how, as well as engineering, legal, and other technical services, are exported to the rest of the world.
The Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is the government agency responsible for measuring the balance of trade. According to the BEA, in 2008 the trade deficit measured approximately $696 billion. This total trade deficit was composed of an $840 billion trade in goods deficit combined with a $144 billion trade in services surplus.