US Versus South Africa – Top Export and Import Products

In this analysis, top American exports to South Africa are scored against South Africa’s imports to the U.S.

The U.S. shipped US$4.5 billion worth of exports to South Africa in 2015, down 31.3% from 2014. Over that same period, America consumed $5.9 billion in South African imported goods, down 41% from the prior year.

The end result was a $1.4 billion trade deficit for the U.S. with its South African trading partner. That is actually a big improvement over America’s $3.5 deficit with South Africa for 2014.

Top US Exports to South Africa

Below are the leading American exports delivered in South Africa in 2015, sorted by dollar value.

Within brackets is the harmonized tariff schedule (HTS) code for each product classification. The percentage to total U.S. exports is also shown inside brackets.

  1. Civilian aircraft and parts (HTS code 8800000000) … US$323.7 million (7.3% of total)
  2. Dump trucks (8704105050) … $73.8 million (1.7%)
  3. Calcined petroleum coke (2713120000) … $72.9 million (1.6%)
  4. Tunneling machinery parts including rock cutters (8431499027) … $57.2 million (1.3%)
  5. Carbon black feedstock (2707999010) … $51.6 million (1.2%)
  6. Reception and transmission equipment (8517620050) … $51.1 million (1.1%)
  7. Bituminous coal (2701120010) … $46.6 million (1.02%)
  8. Road tractors for semi-trailers (8701200015) … $45.58 million (1%)
  9. Vehicle parts and accessories (8708998175) … $41.7 million (0.93%)
  10. Small automobiles (8703330045) … $38.6 million (0.86%).

America’s number one export to South Africa confirms its global trade advantage in the civilian aircraft industry. The U.S. also adapts its exports to meet the needs of the South African mining industry, exporting tunneling machinery as well as dump trucks and tractors for off-highway transportation.

Top US Imports from South Africa

The following products are goods with the highest total dollar value that the U.S. imports from South Africa.

Three of the leading South African imports are platinum group metals (platinum, rhodium and palladium). Also among the top 10 imported goods from South Africa are medium-size vehicles with different engine sizes.

  1. Platinum sponge (HTS code 7110110020) … US$767.7 million (13.1% of total)
  2. Medium-size automobiles (8703230064) … $699.2 million (11.9%)
  3. Medium-size automobiles, smaller engine (8703230062) … $618.9 million (10.5%)
  4. Non-industrial diamonds, processed (7102390050) … $533.2 million (9.1%)
  5. Rhodium (7110310000) … $345.3 million (5.9%)
  6. Palladium (7110210000) … $166 million (2.8%)
  7. Unsaturated acyclic hydrocarbons (2901295000) … $117.2 million (2%)
  8. Slag over 40% titanium (2620995000) … $115.1 million (2%)
  9. Non-industrial diamonds, unworked (7102310000) … $112.3 million (1.9%)
  10. Ferrochromium over 4% carbon (7202410000) … $96.1 million (1.6%).

South Africa has competitive advantages in mining metals and minerals over its American trade partner. The value of imports from South Africa’s automotive industry also outperform U.S. vehicle exports.

US Exports Leading Up to World Cup

Sales of U.S. exports to South Africa fell to $1.06 billion for the first 3 months of 2016. That amount is a 13.1% decline from the period ending March 31, 2015.

The following exported American products were among the top 10 in 2015; below they are sorted starting with American exports posting the highest percentage gains.

  1. Small automobiles … US$10.4 million (up 530.1% from 2015)
  2. Civilian aircraft and parts … $94.1 million (up 74.1% from 2015)
  3. Calcined petroleum coke … $17.3 million (up 1.9%)
  4. Road tractors for semi-trailers … $1.6 million (down 94.8%)
  5. Vehicle parts and accessories … $6.2 million (down 70%)
  6. Tunneling machinery parts including rock cutters … $9 million (down 57%)
  7. Reception and transmission equipment … $8.2 million (down 27.9%)
  8. Bituminous coal … nil (same as first quarter 2015)
  9. Carbon black feedstock … nil (down 100%)
  10. Dump trucks … nil (down 100%).

U.S. sales of small automobiles to South Africa rebounded in the first quarter of 2016. America continues to exploit its competitive advantage in the aircraft industry.

South African Imports Leading Up to World Cup

America increased its consumption of imports from South Africa by 32.1% to $1.65 billion during the first quarter of 2016.

The following list reveals which top 10 imports had the greatest effect in driving up the overall value of South African goods imported into the U.S.

  1. Ferrochromium with over 4% carbon … US$56.7 million (up 427.8% from 2015)
  2. Platinum sponge … $178.2 million (up 274.2%)
  3. Palladium … $62.7 million (up 205.1%)
  4. Slag with over 40% titanium … $32.1 million (up 52.2%)
  5. Non-industrial diamonds, processed … $176.2 million (up 12.3%)
  6. Medium-size automobiles, smaller engine … $154.2 million (up 4.6%)
  7. Unsaturated acyclic hydrocarbons … $24.8 million (up 198.4%)
  8. Non-industrial diamonds, unworked … $55.2 million (up 191.3%)
  9. Rhodium … $135.3 million (up 187.4%)
  10. Medium-size automobiles … $145.3 million (down 8.7%).

Specialized metals imported from South Africa showed robust triple-digit gains to the end of March.

It remains to be seen whether South Africa beats out the United States during the June 11 to July 11 FIFA World Cup.

What is clear is that South Africa is exploiting its competitive advantage over America in international trade, building on a $600 million trade surplus during the first 3 months of 2016.