Overview

Global agricultural trade, valued at about $1.4 trillion in 2018, has been increasing almost every year since 1995. The trade has been facilitated by technological change and productivity gains, as well as by trade liberalization and income growth. In addition, global trade patterns have shifted in favor of emerging economies. Although the United States and the European Union remain among the largest exporters and importers of agricultural products, five countries—Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Russia —have emerged as important traders in the global agricultural market, and, in some cases, as key trading partners to the U.S.

ERS economists conduct research and analysis on the economies, agricultural sectors, and policies of U.S. key trading partners. ERS also assesses environmental, food safety, and food security challenges confronting countries and regions in an increasingly global agricultural market, as well as the economic opportunities the market provides.

Country-specific reports, information, and data are available on Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea.

ERS’s Outputs on International Trade and Policies

ERS data products relating to international trade include:

  • Agricultural Exchange Rate Data Set The dataset contains annual and monthly data on exchange rates important to U.S. agriculture. It includes both nominal and real exchange rates for 80 countries (plus the European Union), as well as real trade-weighted exchange rate indexes for many commodities and aggregations.
  • International Macroeconomic Dataset The dataset provides data from 1969 through 2020 for real (adjusted for inflation) gross domestic product (GDP), population, real exchange rates, and other variables for the 190 countries and 34 regions that are most important for U.S. agricultural trade.
  • International Baseline Dataset The data provide projections on supply, demand, and trade for major agricultural commodities for selected countries. These projections give details on various countries supporting USDA’s 10-year agricultural baseline projections.​

Recent reports on international trade include:

  • Reforming Market Access in Agricultural Trade: Tariff Removal and the Trade Facilitation Agreement ERS analyzes two potential scenarios for reforming global agricultural trade—removing all tariffs or eliminating trade costs through the Trade Facilitation Agreement—and compares their effects on trade, production, prices, and social welfare.​
  • Economic Crises and U.S. Agricultural Exports An examination of past economic crises—and a simulation exercise of the effects of possible future crises—show that such shocks can reduce U.S. agricultural exports considerably, especially if a crisis hits a number of countries simultaneously.​
  • China's Refusals of Food Imports Compliance with China’s food standards and regulations can be a challenge for exporters aspiring to sell to that country’s growing market. Refusals of imports fluctuate from year to year, peaking in 2007 and 2017 and dropping to their lowest-ever totals in 2018-19.​
  • Agricultural Market Access Under Tariff-Rate Quotas
    ERS surveys the first 20 years of World Trade Organization members’ tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) for agricultural products. The data provide for an analysis of how TRQ market access for agricultural products has evolved from 1995 to 2015 and the extent to which TRQs are fulfilling their goal of increasing that access.​
  • Prospects for Growth in U.S. Dairy Exports to Southeast Asia Food demand in Southeast Asia (SEA) is expected to grow in the coming decades, creating opportunities for exporters of dairy products. This study examines the prospects for growth of U.S. dairy exports to the SEA region, and how the U.S. potential to gain or lose market share varies from one Southeast Asian country to another and among products.
  • The Global Landscape of Agricultural Trade, 1995-2014 ​This report surveys 20 years (1995-2014) of trends in world agricultural trade and summarizes key policy issues that will confront decision makers and shape agricultural trade in the coming years.​