Tennessee exports increased an anemic 1.46% in the first quarter of the year. This reflects a generally slow quarter for the U.S., with national exports up only 2.6%. However, the state surpassed the $8 billion mark for the fourth successive quarter ($8.039 billion). There was a remarkable sameness across global markets. All of Tennessee's largest regional markets performed very similarly. While foreign shipments inside NAFTA grew by 2.8% and sales to China were up a meager 2.6%, exports were flat or slightly down to Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia. The Middle East was stronger, with exports up about 5% to that region. The two solid performances were in Australia (up 9.2%) and Latin America (9.9%). (It may interest you to note that Tennessee exports more to the Middle East than it does to Latin America.) All in all, not a very exciting quarter.
But it would have been a lot worse were it not for the continuing exceptional growth in automobile exports. Shipments of passenger cars from Tennessee to the rest of the world increased from $587 million to $753 million, a remarkable 28% increase. A little over $100 million of that was within NAFTA, accounting for most of the net gains in that region. (Exports to Canada would have fallen 4% were it not for cars.) Automobiles were also behind the (relatively) good performances in Australia, the Middle East, and Latin America.
Colombia and Chile combined to bring car exports to Latin America from virtually zero to $23 million. Both Australia and the Middle East were net negative for the quarter if we omit car sales. The only market where cars performed poorly was South Korea, where sales were off $15 million and accounted for most of that market's net decline for the quarter (from $191 million to $173 million).