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What are the Top Manufacturing Countries?

The United States has been one of the top manufacturing countries for decades.
Many of China's industries are located along the heavily polluted Yangtze River.
Brazil is one of the world's top manufacturing countries.
The Boeing 747 is one of the many aircraft that are manufactured in the United States, the world's leading airplane manufacturer.
An illustration of China, one of the top manufacturing countries.
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The world's top manufacturing country is the United States, and this has been the case since before World War II. In 2007, the United States' manufacturing output was $1.831 trillion US Dollars (USD). This is about 12% of the USA's entire gross domestic product (GDP), or $12,206 USD for every person in the 150 million-strong labor force. Still, the USA's output per capita is not the world's greatest — that honor goes to Japan.

Important goods manufactured in the United States include the following, in order of percentage of exports in 2007:

  • production machinery and equipment, 31.4%;
  • industrial supplies, 27.5%;
  • non-auto consumer goods, 12.7%;
  • motor vehicles and parts, 10.5%;
  • aircraft and parts, 7.6%;
  • food, feed and beverages, 7.3%;
  • and other, 3.0%.

In 2007, the top manufacturing countries besides the United States were as follows:

  • China ($1,106 billion USD),
  • Japan ($926 billion USD),
  • Germany ($670 billion USD),
  • Russian Federation ($362 billion USD),
  • Italy ($345 billion USD),
  • United Kingdom ($342 billion USD),
  • France ($296 billion USD),
  • South Korea ($241 billion USD),
  • Canada ($218 billion USD),
  • Spain ($208 billion USD),
  • and Brazil ($206 billion USD).

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There is also a general correlation between how much a country manufactures and its total GDP. Depending on the percentage of their total economy taken up by manufacturing, a country's economic and political leaders may wish to take steps to adjust accordingly. For instance, the USA has been losing substantial ground to China in recent decades, meaning that US political leaders have an interest in increasing the total percentage of the country's GDP dominated by manufacturing.

Of all the leading manufacturers, the one that is growing the fastest economically is China. China's GDP grew by 22.59% in 2007, which was among the greatest GDP growth out of any country, made all the more impressive by China's huge size, with over 1.1 billion people. The country's leaders wish to reclaim China's position as the world's #1 manufacturer by 2020, and have engaged in an ambitious industrialization program to do so. Because much of China is still unindustrialized, China has considerable room for improvement, while the United States is already completely industrialized. China was once before the world's leading manufacturer — back in 1830, the country was responsible for 30% of the global industrial output.

There is much debate among economists about the various measures of manufacturing output and what they mean. For instance, there is gross total output, the total of all value added to manufactured goods throughout the manufacturing process, the per capita manufacturing output, the manufacturing output as a percentage of the GDP, and other measurements.

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Discuss this Article

anon325626
Post 18

China has since surpassed the US as the world's largest manufacturer (in 2011 I believe). The US's GDP numbers are all fudged anyway.

Ana1234
Post 17

I've always been more interested in countries like Bhutan which believe in measuring the happiness of their people, rather than things like manufacturing output and exports. I know life is more complicated than that and that in some ways a lot of manufacturing in a country is going to increase happiness because it provides jobs and a means to make a living that might not otherwise be there.

But I think people get too hung up on material things. I'd rather buy locally made, handcrafted items than something made in a factory. I'm not a Luddite, I'm grateful to have this factory-made computer (most likely with parts made in Japan and China) but it makes me happiest when I can know the story behind an item, know the person who made it and know it came from a place of love, rather than from a sweatshop in a country too concerned with making sure they are the top in the world.

browncoat
Post 16

@Mykol - I would argue that it's not as important to increase the amount, as to increase the quality of the products. I'm not terribly good at economics, but it's easy to see that the US is never going to be able to compete with China in price or quantity when it comes to production manufacturing. So, quality is the way to go.

And people should definitely be encouraged to buy local. It's good for the economy, good for the environment, just good for everyone.

Mykol
Post 15

@bagley79 -- That is one of the biggest reasons I try to buy products that are made in the US. I think it is important to support our local economy as much as possible.

Many times this is not as easy to do as you would think. It may take more time, research and money, but I think it is worth the extra effort. I am not surprised to see China and Japan listed in the top manufacturing companies, but I would like to see the US increase their manufacturing, and would hope more consumers would seek out these products.

bagley79
Post 14

@anon268224 -- I agree that much of the merchandise in China is cheap. Not only is it cheap to buy, but most of the merchandise is not good quality. It seems almost everything you see has a label on it that says it was made in China.

anon268224
Post 13

To make lighters, can openers, cheap furniture, yes China sells more. The US manufactures industrial equipment, jets, autos. farming equipment, everything relevant Internet, microchips, computers; nobody comes close. The EU mostly exports foods and indigenous cultural items but is rapidly building an industrial manufacturing capability.

anon261925
Post 12

This article needs to be updated. First of all, it should distinguish between PPP adjusted and real measures of manufacturing output. Secondly, it should update its data to that which has been released as of last year. According to that data (it is no wikipedia), China leads the world in manufacturing output in PPP adjusted terms, while the United States does so in real terms (albeit only slightly larger than china's share).

anon250035
Post 11

Is that the United States of Mexico? The most highly industrialised country in the world is The Netherlands. More manufacturing occurs in China than anywhere else. The USA, on the hand, collapses industry (motor industry, insurance, health, electricity, sub-prime lending, dot.com enterprises, airlines, etc., ad nauseum). Not big time in industry, just big-time bad.

anon199262
Post 9

Italy, Germany and Japan are bigger manufacturing countries than the US per capita.

lovereading
Post 8

China's GDP grew by 22.59 percent in 2007? How can this be true?

anon156558
Post 6

I'm doing some research about the history of China's economy but I can't find your source about China's GDP in the 1830's.

What source did you use? Thanks!

anon124920
Post 4

China had the most people, ergo the largest of everything including manufacturing, since time immemorial. To even consider another country before decades after the beginning of the industrial revolution is absurd and shows complete ignorance.

anon91278
Post 3

As William McAdoo famously said, it is impossible to win an argument with an ignorant man.

anon32483
Post 1

Do you know any ranking of the countries in terms of manufacturing performance? Esp. of Philippines? Thanks!

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