4th Quarter 2009

(Click on graph for larger view.)


the evolving Tennessee export mix to China; composition of Tennessee exports to China 2000, 2005, 2009


America's top exports to China, 2009


China intensive exports from Tennessee; average percent of total Tennessee exports that go to China, 2007 to 2009


(Tennessee 's Trade with China)

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Has the composition of Tennessee's exports to China changed in recent years?

Over the past decade, there has actually been quite a bit of churn in the products the state ships to China. The one constant is that China buys raw and intermediate goods. The state's largest exports have consistently been in these goods. The most important have been materials for apparels: artificial filament tow and cotton. The former has been among the state's top exports all decade long. Cotton shipments grew dramatically by mid-decade but have fallen back since then. Chemicals and plastics form a second sizable cluster of exported goods. Exports of metals, including aluminum, iron, and copper, often as scrap, have been increasing throughout the decade. Medical instrument sales have also grown over the years. (Shipment of orthopedic products, not shown in these charts, has similarly increased.)

But many other products have surged and declined over the years, even though most fall into the broad categories of "electrical machinery" or "industrial machinery." For example, in mid-decade, mobile phone and modem parts were significant exports from Tennessee, whereas today they are virtually nil. Though it looked for much of the decade as if state exports were going to concentrate in a handful of products, this did not turn out to be true. Today the range of exports of China is greater than ever (as one can see by looking at the "other" slice of the pie charts shown here.)

Is Tennessee's export profile to China similar to that of other states?

The short answer is no. Of the top 10 American exported goods, Tennessee exports only four (and two just barely) at the national average or higher. Tennessee sends virtually no soybeans or electronic circuitry (and processors) to China. These are two of the country's biggest exports to that market. Tennessee's economic connections to China are quite different than those of the entire United States.

Which Tennessee exports are most reliant on the Chinese market?

A surprising number of Tennessee goods rely on China. For 15 of the top 100 products exported by the state, 20% or more of the shipments are to China. As you can see from the chart, these products are concentrated in metals and chemicals. But sections of the computer and industrial machinery sectors are increasingly reliant on China as well.

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