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What countries does America owe money to?

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Quick Answer

In October 2014, the U.S. government owed more than $1.2 trillion to both mainland China and Japan, $348 billion to Belgium and hundreds of billions of dollars to dozens of other countries. The government also owes money to the United States itself because it must repay government bonds that Americans bought.

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Full Answer

As of January 2015, U.S. government debt was more than $18 trillion.

The government also owes money to the South American countries of Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Peru and to the Asian countries of Russia, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore and India. Taiwan and Hong Kong are also creditors. The U.S. owes money to Western European nations, such as Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany, Spain and France, and it owes money to the United Kingdom and Ireland. More European countries include Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and Italy. Turkey, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, South Africa and Australia are other creditor nations, and the U.S. owes money to its neighbors, Mexico and Canada.

The U.S. government also owes about $300 billion to Caribbean banks and more than $200 million to oil-exporting states. Foreign investors hold about 33 percent of the U.S. government's debt. These countries buy U.S. Treasury bonds as investments. The United States is obligated to pay back with interest the money raised through the sale of bonds.

Domestic private investors hold about 14 percent of U.S. government debt. This includes banks and individual citizens who buy Treasury bonds and expect a return on their investment.

Another category of debt is the federal accounts, or money the federal government has borrowed from itself. For example, the government borrows money from the Social Security trust fund to finance operations of other departments. This category accounts for 28 percent of U.S. debt.

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