It's a myth that the U.S. doesn't make anything anymore. It's a myth that we don't export anything to the rest of the world.
Yes, we import more than we export. Our trade deficit last year was $558 billion
But we export a lot. Last year, U.S. exports were worth $2.1 trillion. Which raises a simple question: $2.1 trillion worth of what?
Mostly goods. Also, services:
Here's a closer look at our goods exports in 2011. The two biggest categories — industrial supplies and capital goods — account for about $500 billion a piece.
Here's a breakdown of our services exports:
Royalties and licensing includes money people pay to use American software, and to distribute movies and TV shows. It also includes wonkier stuff, like payments to use patents on industrial processes.
One interesting note about travel: When foreign tourists come to the U.S. and buy stuff, it counts as exports. This makes sense if you think about how the money flows. It's money coming in from other countries, and being used to buy services produced in the U.S.
So who's buying all these goods and services? Here's the top five:
That Canada and Mexico hold the top spots is a reminder that, even in this globalized world, proximity still matters. (Also: NAFTA.)
And here's the top goods we're selling to each of the top five. It's striking how varied this list is — from soybeans (China) to auto parts (Canada) to gold (U.K.).
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this post had an incorrect figure for the U.S. trade deficit.