Vietnam is on track this year to bump Britain from its long-time place among the U.S.’s top seven goods trading partners, which would be the first time the U.K. hasn’t been in that group in records going back at least to 2004.

The U.K.’s share of the U.S. merchandise trade slid to 2.6% through the first 10 months of 2022, while Vietnam’s rose to 2.7%, according to Census Bureau data.

In full-year numbers going back almost 20 years, the top seven U.S. partners in goods trade have consistently been Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, Germany, South Korea and the U.K., though their position within the group has shifted around.

Vietnam didn’t appear in the bureau’s top-15 list until 2019, and it has climbed ever since, ending last year at No. 10. If Vietnam’s lead over the U.K. holds for the final two months of 2022, it’ll be the first time that a majority of the top seven are Asian economies.

The Big Seven

The numbers reflect trends that both pre-date the pandemic and were accelerated by it. China’s share of U.S. goods trade, which stood at 13.2% in October, has been edging down since it peaked on a full-year basis at 16.4% in 2017.

As American companies sought suppliers outside of China during the trade war between Beijing and Washington, the share of U.S. trade with countries like Mexico and Vietnam has been rising.

Vietnam’s total exports from January to November 2022 were up 13.4% over the same period in 2021, according to the General Statistics Office in Hanoi.

Mexico posted record exports of $52 billion in September, mostly thanks to strong consumer demand from the U.S. Shipments of boats, vehicles and computer parts are leading Mexico’s export boom, as Bloomberg reported in November.

Meanwhile, between the pandemic and Brexit, the U.K. economy has been through a tumultuous few years and the outlook for 2023 doesn’t look to improve any time soon:
•    British businesses are bracing for a worsening recession after manufacturing and service sectors slumped in the fourth quarter.
•    U.K. retail sales unexpectedly fell in November as Black Friday failed to deliver its usual boost.
•    British retailers are drumming up new credit offers to encourage shoppers to spend more during one of the most challenging Christmas periods for business in years.
• In what should be a week where most people turn their thoughts towards the Christmas break, thousands of workers across the U.K. will instead go on strike.