Top 20 Countries that Owe the US Money (2024)

In this article, we will be analyzing the foreign-owned US debt during prevailing global conditions, while covering the top 20 countries that owe the US money. If you wish to skip our detailed analysis, you can move directly to the Top 5 Countries that Owe the US Money.

Foreign-Owned US Debt: An Overview

The US government owes money to governments, central banks, companies, and individual investors around the world. As reported by the US Department of the Treasury, the US owes a total of $7.4 trillion in Treasury securities to foreign countries. Foreign countries buy US Treasury securities since they are considered as one of the most secure assets. Among other countries, Japan and China have continued to be the top owners of US debt during the last two decades. Since the dollar is a strong currency that is accepted globally, holding a substantial amount of US debt can be beneficial. Furthermore, these securities also give a higher rate of return relative to other government bonds.

During the pandemic, the US foreign-owned debt declined as both official and private sector foreign investors contributed $417 billion of net sales in the U.S. Treasury securities in March 2020. Since the pandemic created a demand for more liquid capital assets, private investors ended up selling longer-term US Treasury notes and bonds. The crisis also made Saudi Arabia, China, and Brazil sell their shares of US Treasurys for short-term capital. You can also take a look at some of the countries with the most debt.

Global Scenario Amidst Rising Interest Rates

On October 10, the IMF reported that central banks around the world are keeping interest rates high in an attempt to tame inflation. This tight monetary policy is making debt expensive for borrowers which could even lead to defaults. Low-income economies are facing trouble with borrowing in hard currencies like the euro, yen, US dollar, and UK pound. Government bonds in emerging economies are also being issued at higher interest rates. This is impacting the corporate side of the world as well. Companies in both advanced and emerging market economies are struggling to pay their interest expenses. The situation is even grim for financially weaker firms who borrow from the leveraged loan market since defaults have been increasing. Countries with the most external debt have also been previously covered.

On the contrary, sectors that generally benefit from rising interest rates include financial and brokerage firms since their profit margins tend to expand in this case. Some of these include The Bank of America Corporation (NYSE:BAC), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM), and Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS). Let’s look at what these firms have been up to.

The Bank of America Corporation (NYSE:BAC) is a multinational investment bank and financial services holding company. It is one of the largest banking institutions in the world. On October 17, the Bank of America Corporation (NYSE:BAC) reported earnings for the fiscal third quarter of 2023. The company reported earnings per share of $0.90, beating EPS estimates by $0.08. Revenue for the quarter amounted to $25.17 billion, up 2.71% year-over-year and ahead of revenue consensus by $93.31 million.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) is a leading American multinational financial services company that serves worldwide. The company has recently forecasted positive growth prospects for its payments business. On November 15, Bloomberg reported that the digital token JPM Coin has been expected to make $10 billion in daily transactions in the coming year. JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s (NYSE:JPM)Global Head of Financial Institution Payments is hopeful regarding a substantial growth in daily transactions over time.

Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS) offers services related to investment banking, prime brokerage, asset management, and wealth management. On November 15, the company announced the latest fund launched through the Goldman Sachs ETF Accelerator with the listing of the first exchange-traded fund by GMO, a global investment manager. Leveraging the potential of the rapidly growing ETF industry, the Goldman Sachs ETF Accelerator business enables clients to launch, list, and manage their ETFs. On October 17, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS) reported its financial results for the fiscal third quarter of 2023 that exceeded analysts’ estimates on stronger-than-expected trading revenue. The decline in trading of currencies, commodities, and credit was balanced out by strength in interest rate products and mortgages. The group reported earnings per share of $5.47 and generated a revenue of $11.82 billion, outperforming revenue consensus by $685.36 million.

Similarly, you can also consider several other best investments during high interest rates. Without further ado, let’s move to the top 20 countries that owe the US money.

Top 20 Countries that Owe the US Money

Our Methodology:

In order to compile a list of the top 20 countries that owe the US money, we acquired data from the US Department of Treasury which issues information related to the major foreign holders of US treasury securities. The most recent data is available from January 2023. Hence, we used the total debt held by each of the countries as our metric and ranked the countries in ascending order of the money they owe to the United States.

Top 20 Countries that Owe the US Money

20. Bermuda

Total Debt Held: $77.4 Billion

As of January, Bermuda owes a total of $77.4 billion to the United States. Hence, the country ranks as one of those that owe the US money. The government of Bermuda is trying to move towards an overall budget surplus and a reduction in the national debt.

19. Germany

Total Debt Held: $91.3 Billion

Germany is another country in Europe that owes money to the US. The United States has been a major creditor to the country in the past as well. As of January, the amount owed by Germany to the US is $91.3 billion.

18. Norway

Total Debt Held: $104.4 Billion

Norway is another major US debt holder from Europe. As of January, Norway owes $104.4 billion to the United States. Thus, Norway ranks as one of the countries that owe the US money.

17. Korea

Total Debt Held: $105.8 Billion

The 20 countries that owe the US money include Korea as well. As of January, the country owes a total of $105.8 billion to the United States. Korea’s external debt has also been increasing in recent years.

16. Saudi Arabia

Total Debt Held: $111 Billion

Saudi Arabia owed $111 billion to the United States thereby qualifying as one of the top 20 countries that owe the US money. However, the country sold over $3 billion of US government debt in June since it is investing more in riskier assets.

15. France

Total Debt Held: $183.9 Billion

France is another nation that borrows money from the US. As of January, France owes $183.9 billion to the US. This makes it another top nation that owes the US money. The French history of taking debt is old and can be traced back to the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era.

14. Singapore

Total Debt Held: $187.6 Billion

The total amount owed by Singapore to the US is $187.6 billion. This ranks the country among those who owe money to the United States. The sovereign debt per capita is also high in Singapore.

13. Brazil

Total Debt Held: $214 Billion

Following the United States, Brazil is one of the largest economies in the Western Hemisphere. As of January, Brazil owes a total of $214 billion to the United States thereby making it to the top 20 countries that owe the US money.

12. Hong Kong

Total Debt Held: $226.8 Billion

Hong Kong ranks as another top nation that has borrowed money from the US. As of January, the nation owed $226.8 billion to the US. Hong Kong has pegged its currency to the US dollar which is supported by this debt.

11. India

Total Debt Held: $232 Billion

India owes $232 billion to the United States, as of January. This makes the country qualify as one of the top 20 countries that owe the US money. The US treasury securities are deemed as a safe investment for the country.

10. Taiwan

Total Debt Held: $234.6 Billion

Taiwan has a large trade surplus with the US. It is also a major US debt holder since it owes $234.6 billion to the country, as of January. This ranks Taiwan as one of the top 20 countries that owe the US money.

9. Ireland

Total Debt Held: $253.4 Billion

Ireland is another European country that owes money to the US. As of January, the country owes $253.4 billion to the US. Ireland is also a known destination for investment by US companies due to its favorable business environment.

8. Canada

Total Debt Held: $254.1 Billion

Based on shared geography and economic ties, Canada is one of the closest allies to the US. The country owes $254.1 billion to the United States, as of January. This makes it another major US debt holder.

7. Cayman Islands

Total Debt Held: $285.3 Billion

The Cayman Islands is a relatively smaller country that owes $285.3 billion to the United States, as of January. This ranks the country among other nations that owe the US money. Furthermore, there are numerous domiciled investment firms in the Cayman Islands that invest in US debt.

6. Switzerland

Total Debt Held: $290.5 Billion

With a debt of $290.5 billion, Switzerland ranks as one of the top countries that owe the US money. Investors in Switzerland have also increased their holdings of US debt. The country’s other main creditors include countries such as Germany and France.

Click to continue reading and see Top 5 Countries that Owe the US Money.

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Disclosure: None. Top 20 Countries that Owe the US Money is originally published on Insider Monkey.

Top 20 Countries that Owe the US Money (2024)


What countries owe the United States the most money? ›

As a result, totals from January 2023 are lower than reported. As of January 2023, the five countries owning the most US debt are Japan ($1.1 trillion), China ($859 billion), the United Kingdom ($668 billion), Belgium ($331 billion), and Luxembourg ($318 billion).

Which foreign countries own the U.S. debt? ›

Top Foreign Owners of US National Debt
  • Japan. $1,153.1. 14.37%
  • China. $797.7. 9.94%
  • United Kingdom. $753.5. 9.39%
  • Luxembourg. $376.5. 4.69%
  • Canada. $339.8. 4.23%

How much money is the USA owed? ›

The $34 trillion gross federal debt includes debt held by the public as well as debt held by federal trust funds and other government accounts. In very basic terms, this can be thought of as debt that the government owes to others plus debt that it owes to itself.

How much does America owe China? ›

China is one of the United States's largest creditors, owning about $859.4 billion in U.S. debt. 1 However, it does not own the most U.S. debt of any foreign country. Nations borrowing from each other may be as old as the concept of money.

What happens if China dumps US bonds? ›

If China (or any other nation that has a trade surplus with the U.S.) stops buying U.S. Treasuries or even starts dumping its U.S. forex reserves, its trade surplus would become a trade deficit—something which no export-oriented economy would want, as they would be worse off as a result.

Is China in more debt than the US? ›

Debt as a share of GDP has risen to about the same level as in the United States, while in dollar terms China's total debt ($47.5 trillion) is still markedly below that of the United States (close to $70 trillion). As for non-financial corporate debt, China's 28 percent share is the largest in the world.

Who owns over 70% of the U.S. debt? ›

Of the $33T of debt, roughly 78% is owned by the public (70% US vs 30% International). The major US public owners include the FED ($6T, but they are no longer buyers), mutual funds, banks, states, pension funds and insurance companies.

How much of US land does China own? ›

According to a 2021 report by the Department of Agriculture, China owns 384,000 acres of American agricultural land; ownership which jumped by 30% from 2019 to 2020.

Does Russia hold U.S. debt? ›

Other countries with outstanding U.S. debt include Russia, India and South Korea. China Is America's Biggest Banker. The U.S. debt to China is $1.11 trillion as of May 2019.

Can China call in US debt? ›

Nations like China typically hold US debt in the form of various US Treasury debt, including bonds and other notes. None of these instruments allow debt holders to simply demand repayment…you get the terms and conditions associated with the bond and there's little flexibility to “calling in all of their debts”.

Why is the US in so much debt? ›

One of the main culprits is consistently overspending. When the federal government spends more than its budget, it creates a deficit. In the fiscal year of 2023, it spent about $381 billion more than it collected in revenues. To pay that deficit, the government borrows money.

Why does China buy US debt? ›

From a national perspective, China buys U.S. debt due to its complex financial system. The central bank must purchase U.S. Treasuries and other foreign assets to keep cash inflows from causing inflation.

What country owns most of the United States debt? ›

Top 10 territories that own the most U.S. debt

In total, other territories hold about $7.4 trillion in U.S. debt. Japan owns the most at $1.1 trillion, followed by China, with $859 billion, and the United Kingdom at $668 billion.

Which country owes the most national debt? ›

At the top is Japan, whose national debt has remained above 100% of its GDP for two decades, reaching 255% in 2023. *For the U.S. and Canada, gross debt levels were adjusted to exclude unfunded pension liabilities of government employees' defined-benefit pension plans.

Which country is owed the most debt? ›

The United States boasts both the world's biggest national debt in terms of dollar amount and its largest economy, which resolves to a debt-to GDP ratio of approximately 128.13%. The United States' government's spending exceeds its income most years, and the US has not had a budget surplus since 2001.

Why does the US owe Japan? ›

Why does the US owe so much debt to Japan? Because this has been an industrial policy of Japan and America, to give Japan the access to US market, and Japan to actively encourage lower yen, so to export to US at cheaper price.

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