In 1929, foreign trade reached a total value of 10 billion dollars, exceeding the trade of Great Britain by about one billion. The trade balance remains active with a considerable surplus of exports over imports. This privileged status of the United States was also reinforced by the effect of the world war, as the United States accumulated much of the world’s gold in its reserves and became creditors of all the countries of Europe.
The composition of the trade has changed over time; former exporters of raw materials, that is of crude or semi-finished products (cotton, oil, copper, wheat, meat), of which the territory is so generously provided and importers of manufactured products, the United States now largely buys raw materials and sells processed products from their industries. In fact, among the imports, silk and rubber and tropical agricultural products, such as cocoa, coffee, tea and sugar, are in first place. Secondly, wool, tropical fruit (bananas) and tin, the only metal that the United States does not possess. And considerable quantities of copper ores and other metals are also imported, which American industry processes together with the products of its mines, and thus the crude oils of Mexico and Central America are refined. In exports, the first place goes to cotton and oil and its products, followed by yarns and fabrics, meat and meat preserves, animal fats, wheat and flour, tobacco, wood and wood pulp, various non-metallic minerals, coal, iron, steel and copper, as well as industrial and agricultural machinery and automobiles.
Foreign trade takes place with all countries of the world. A quick review of the movement shows us the overall size of the traffic and the characteristics of the individual streams.
Trade with Mexico and the other countries of Central America and the Antilles exceeded the value of 900 million dollars in 1929; imports exceeded exports, since the United States absorbed in that year, as in the whole decade 1921-1930, 60% of the goods sold by Mexico and the countries of Central America. Imports included sugar, bananas, tobacco, sisal fiber, petroleum and iron ores. Exports of timber, cereals, meats, textiles, metallurgical items and machinery reached $ 430 million and therefore Mexico with Central America, as buyers of North American products, came in 3rd place after Canada and Europe of NO.
Exchanges with South America represent a slightly higher total value. In the five-year period 1926-30 almost one billion dollars was reached, and imports exceeded exports by about 100 million. The United States sells iron and steel articles, oil and its products, many manufactured goods, coal and lumber to all the countries of South America. Imports, on the other hand, differ from region to region: cereals, coffee, wool, rubber and meat are sent from the countries of the Atlantic coast, while minerals are produced from the west coast, namely nitrates, petroleum, copper ores, iron and tin.
The greatest overall value goes to trade with Europe. American exports to Europe have long outstripped imports; already before 1900 Europe was buying goods for double the value of what it did not sell and from 1900 the production was always increasing, reaching its maximum during the years of the world war, when imports from the United States exceeded 4 billion dollars in comparison of the 680 million exported from Europe to America. In the five-year period 1926-30 pre-war proportions were restored and the United States sold to Europe for over two and a quarter billion annually, while they bought for one billion and 200 million dollars. Even so small, Europe’s place in US foreign trade is preponderant and, in the five-year period just mentioned, Europe absorbed just under half of American exports and supplied just under a third of imports. Exports include foodstuffs, liquid fuels, raw materials of animal, vegetable and mineral origin, and to a lesser extent manufactured items: however in some categories, such as, p. eg automobiles, typewriters and sewing machines, American competition made itself noticeably felt on all European markets. The United States buys, on the other hand, superior quality manufactured items, unprocessed or semi-finished products, and agricultural and animal products typical of some European countries, such as olive oil, fruit and lemons from Spain and Italy, wine from France, from Italy and Spain, cheeses from Switzerland and Italy, etc.
Trade with Asia can be divided into two fields: that with East Asia and that with South Asia. The first is considerably lower than the transatlantic trade, because, on the one hand, Japanese competition and, on the other hand, the poor purchasing capacity of the eastern populations, prevent this trade from reaching the extent that would be expected on the basis of the territorial extension and to the population density of the Far East. In the five-year period 1926-30 American exports did not reach 400 million and imports slightly exceeded 500 million dollars. In South Asia, most of the territories are made up of European colonial possessions and the goods of the dominant powers are preferred for various reasons: indeed, strong customs barriers often hinder the introduction of American products. Consequently, the purchases of the United States prevail over sales: thus in the five-year period mentioned they sold goods for a total value of 180 million dollars to the countries of South Asia, while they bought 625 million dollars.
America buys silk, tea, camphor and other animal and vegetable products and artistic artefacts of great value from East Asia, while it sells petroleum products, lumber, raw cotton and machinery, as well as tobacco: overall the tonnage of exports is double. than that of imports. Also in South Asia, America sends petroleum products and articles of iron and steel, and there it purchases vegetable fibers, rubber, skins, teas, spices, vegetable oils and some metal ores, especially tin.
The exchanges with Africa and Australia are relatively scarce for the same reasons we mentioned when talking about South Asia. In the five-year period considered, the United States sold goods for 109 and 177 million a year to Africa and Oceania, respectively, and bought 91 and 53 million of them.
Trade with Canada occupies the second place in the external trade of the United States and in the five-year period 1925-30 it reached the average annual value of 1290 million dollars, of which 829 million are due to exports and 470 million to imports. The United States supplies over 65% of Canadian imports and absorbs about two-fifths of exports from Canada, which demonstrates the importance of relations between the two countries, which are closely linked by territorial contiguity and whose products are complementary.
Italian – American trade. – Trade with Italy, which in 1913 was 791 million gold lire, reached its highest point in 1925 when Italian exchanges represented a value of 8063 million paper lire (1660 million gold lire), of which 6175 they belonged to imports into Italy and 1888 to Italian exports to the United States. In the following years, trade decreased and marked a serious leap in both Italian imports and exports. In 1933 the value of purchases from the United States was 1113 million lire, while Italy sold only for 517 million. Italy imports cotton (629 million), wheat (95.5), copper and its alloys (39.4), timber, lubricating mineral oils and paraffins, prepared leathers, scrap iron and gasoline. The Italian goods sold are: cheeses (87 million lire), tomato paste (62),
Most of these products are directed to the numerous Italians (3,700,000) who live in the United States and who continue to consume products from the mother country. The high customs barriers of North America prevent our exports from being larger and what they could be, given the large number of Italians living in that country.
Political – administrative subdivision.
As already mentioned, the United States is a confederation of 48 states (republics), a federal district (which includes the capital of the confederation, Washington) and two external territories (Alaska and Hawaii; see under these entries).
The following table brings together the surface and population data of the individual states and the federal district.
Alaska (1,518,714 sq km, 59,278 residents in 1930), acquired by Russia in 1867, and the Hawaiian Islands (16,593 sq km, 384,439 residents in 1935), annexed in 1898, are territories of the Union, dependent on by the ministry of the interior. They are external possessions: Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico: 8896 sq. Km., 1,543,913 residents In 1930), ceded by Spain in 1898; some of the Virgin Islands (344 sq. km., 22,012 residents in 1935), purchased from Denmark in 1916; the Panama Canal Zone (1422 sq km, 41,102 residents in 1935), purchased by Panama in 1903; the island of Guam, the main one of the Marianas (534 sq km, pop 20,899 in 1935), ceded by Spain in 1894, and some of Samoa (197 sq km, pop 10,561 in 1933). The Philippine Islands (296,285 sq km, 13,055,220 residents in 1934), ceded by Spain in 1899, were raised to dominion in 1934 and will become fully independent by 1944 at the latest. For more details, see the individual entries.