Americans spend more than $1 billion on fireworks each year, a number that’s been steadily increasing for years according to the American Pyrotechnics Association, but the classic Fourth of July celebratory bangs are primarily thanks to a U.S. trade rival: China.
“Ninety-nine percent of the backyard consumer fireworks come directly from China,” Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, told NPR. “And about 70 percent of the professional display fireworks are manufactured in China.”
Fireworks manufacturers have existed in the U.S. for over a century, but when demand boomed around the American bicentennial in 1976, companies began importing from other countries like Italy, Mexico, and China.
“Manufacturing fireworks is very labor-intensive,” said Heckman. “As the regulations got tighter and people really aren’t interested in making things by hand, it made sense to rely more on China to handle that production.”
Last year, Americans imported 40 times more fireworks than they exported, but so far this trade deficit hasn’t caught President Donald Trump’s attention. Fireworks are not subject to the growing levels of tariffs that other products face, allowing the Fourth of July to light up more and more each year.
Despite the massive amount of imports, NPR ensures the American fireworks industry is still booming. Without having to actually manufacture the explosives, companies can focus more on conducting shows.
“It’s becoming a year-round thing where it used to be once or twice a year,” said Roberto Sorgi, whose great-great grandfather founded American Fireworks in 1902. “The industry as a whole has really just taken off to another level.”