America has been involved in global trade since colonial times. In the first half of the 19th century, the United States exported raw materials and imported manufactured goods. As the country industrialized, it became a major exporter of factory-produced items, from sewing machines to cars. In recent years, it has again imported manufactured goods, and exported agricultural products and financial and computer-related services. The United States has been a major player in international economy since the 1880s.
New York City has been central to the story of America’s international trade. In the 1920s half of America’s imports and exports moved through the city. But New York’s role as a port began declining in the 1960s as container ships moved to terminals elsewhere in the area, and New York’s transportation problems made it harder to get trucks and trains from the ports out of the city. Ocean liners no longer carried millions of immigrants to New York. Manufacturers moved out of the city, looking for cheaper labor.
But New York reinvented itself as a new kind of global city. More than ever, it is a center of international finance, banking, art, culture, and professional services. The new New York is a city tied to the world economy not only by the goods it manufactures, buys, sells, and transports, but also by the ideas, culture, and financial and information services it produces.