1st Quarter 2010

Graphs link to larger view.

tennessee trade-weighted dollar index graph


tennessee monthly exports graph


tennessee's leading trade partners graph

Tennessee International Trade Report

by Steven G. Livingston

The first quarter was good news for just about all of the state's exports industries.

State exporters reported very strong gains in the first quarter of 2010. Tennessee's foreign shipments rose by 27.7%, to $5.87 billion. This growth was almost a third higher than for the nation as a whole. The large majority of the gains were in the state's biggest trade sectors, including the transportation and chemical industries, each of which saw export growth exceeding 50% from a year ago. The state increased its sales in 26 of its top 30 markets, generally in the range of 20% or more. Only a few products, including orthopedics, printers, aluminum plating, video games, and soybeans, lost exports for the quarter.

The largest gains were in the transportation sector. Tennessee car, SUV, and auto parts sales gained more than $400 million for the quarter. In part this was a sign of the general improvement in the global automotive sector, as total U.S. auto-related exports were up by almost 17%. However, Tennessee's industry grew three times as rapidly! There were huge increases in the traditional big two auto-related markets, Canada and Mexico, but the most surprising numbers were in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., and Kuwait combined to increase their purchases of Tennessee cars and SUVs by more than $140 million. As a result, Saudi Arabia now stands as the state's eighth-largest export market, and the United Arab Emirates have become the 16th-largest market. The quarter's star export, spark-ignition piston engines, was also in this sector. Foreign shipments of these engines grew by more than 2,000%, almost all going to Canada.

The chemical sector also turned in some great numbers. Overall, exports of chemicals and plastics were up more than $300 million. Exports of coloring matter almost doubled (to $116 million), with big increases across the globe, including Belgium, Korea, China, and Singapore. Cellulose (and derivatives) exports also virtually doubled (to $113 million), with greatly increased shipments to Japan, Germany, China, and Korea, among others.

As noted, Tennessee exports rose across the globe. Exports to Canada grew by almost a third, with laptops and engine parts joining the transportation sector as large gainers. Mexico grew by only a shade less, to just over $700 million for the quarter. Again, this was mostly due to the auto industry. (The fall in soybean exports, however, was concentrated in this market as well.) Foreign shipments to China rose by almost a quarter, to $350 million, on the back of increased exports of industrial goods. China was one market where the state did not grow as rapidly as the nation (for which exports to China gained 46.6%), but this is mostly accounted for by a sharp fall in cotton exports to that nation. Japan, the state's fourth largest market, increased its purchases of Tennessee goods to $324 million, a 40% gain. Medical instrument sales were the story there.

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