4th Quarter 2013

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Tennessee International Trade Report

Third consecutive quarter over $8 billion
by Steven G. Livingston | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Tennessee export growth far outstripped that of the nation in the fourth quarter. Tennessee exports grew at double the country's rate (7.56% to 3.7%). The $8.23 billion in exports marks the third consecutive quarter that state exports exceeded $8 billion. The strong quarter enabled Tennessee to end the year with an increase of $1.2 billion in foreign sales over 2012 (to $32.4 billion). The year's 4.02% export growth rate also just about doubled America's (2.14%).

The reason? In one word: cars. Passenger car and SUV exports soared at the end of 2013. In the fourth quarter of 2012, the state shipped passenger vehicles valued at $387 million. In 2013, their value was $703 million, an increase of over 80%. This accounted for over half of the state's quarterly increase in exports. The remarkable thing is how global were the gains.

Tennessee monthly exports

In Australia, Tennessee automobile shipments rose from virtually nil to about $62 million, and in Brazil, from nothing to $17 million. Sales to China climbed $30 million (to $44 million), to the Netherlands $21 million (from virtually zero), and to Saudi Arabia $50 million. Canada saw the largest gains of all. Automobile shipments north of the border grew over $100 million from 2012 (from $119 million to $247 million).

Tennessee's Monthly Imports

Ironically, the only major market to which car shipments fell was South Korea, where automotive exports were so recently at issue in its free trade pact with the U.S. Car sales to Korea halved, from $33 million to $16 million, in the fourth quarter. The big gains in Australia were likely a byproduct of several automotive plant closures down under. But elsewhere the gains reflect the growing model lines that Nissan, Volkswagen, and GM are exporting out of the state. To take two examples, the Nissan Pathfinders sold in Australia and New Zealand are coming from Smyrna while the Volkswagen Passats sold in the Middle East now come from Chattanooga.

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