4th Quarter 2008

Graphs link to larger view.

Tennessee trade-weighted dollar index

tennessee monthly exports

tennessee's leading trade partners graph


Tennessee International Trade Report (part 2)

by Steven G. Livingston

print version | tables | trade part 1

Exports to most "emerging market" nations were down, sometimes substantially. The two exceptions were Brazil and China. Sales to Brazil were up 40% and involved a variety of industries including computers, medical instruments, and line telephony. Exports to China grew by almost a quarter (to $344 million). The major reason was agriculture. Cotton and soybeans combined for more than $80 million in new exports. Artificial filament sales were also up strongly. As with Japan, the steep fall in Chinese exports does not bode well for continuing gains by these industries.

Across the rest of the developing world, the export picture was pretty bleak: Argentina down by a third, South Korea a quarter, Malaysia 40%, Taiwan 40%. You get the picture. Total state exports to Southeast Asia were off more than 20%. Electronics and various chemicals bore the brunt of these losses. The Middle East was a bit of an exception due to extremely strong automotive exports during October. However, the next two months clawed back more than 80% of that gain, leaving the state barely in the black for the quarter.

Tennessee exports to Europe did not suffer reverses of that magnitude. However, losses were the order of the day. Though the state eked out a $3 million gain in the U.K. (1.25%), its exports to the entire European Union fell by just over $100 million. The timeline was the same: a weak $10 million gain in October was followed by a sizable $30 million loss in November and then a steep loss of $80 million in December. Not all industries suffered. The medical instrument and pharmaceutical industries had good quarters. The former's exports grew by $50 million. But auto parts (mostly to Spain), chemical exports, and scrap metal sales fell substantially. There was also some shifting within Europe. Exports to France and Germany were off more than $30 million each, and sales to both Spain and Italy fell by more than $20 million. Belgium, however, the site of most of the medical instrument export gains, increased its purchases of Tennessee goods by about $30 million.

One can't look forward to 2009's numbers without some trepidation. Most of Tennessee's foreign markets are faring even worse than the American economy, and many of the major products Tennessee sells abroad are materials or components for manufactured goods, the sector bearing the brunt of the current economic contraction. Perhaps we should be grateful that at this point many of Tennessee's larger, developed markets appear to be contracting but not collapsing. »

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