3rd Quarter 2009

Graphs link to larger view.

Tennessee trade-weighted dollar index


tennessee monthly exports


tennessee's leading trade partners graph

Tennessee International Trade Report

by Steven G. Livingston

The losses were so broad, across industries and countries, that the story is a bit monotonous.

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The third quarter of this year produced no surprises. As expected, Tennessee exports were down, and substantially so. The state's foreign shipments fell by a billion dollars for the quarter, to $5.161 billion. The good news, if you wish to call it that, is that the state at least suffered smaller percentage losses than did the nation overall. And a relatively small loss in October, the first month of the last quarter, suggests that the worst might indeed be over.

The losses were so broad, across industries and countries, that the story is a bit monotonous. Exports fell in 45 of the state's top 50 markets. In only three were gains significant, and the most spectacular of these gains, Luxembourg, is artificial. State exports to that small nation grew by almost $100 million for the quarter, an almost unheard-of gain. But the medical equipment and pharmaceuticals shipments that produced this gain were simply goods rerouted from Belgium and other European countries. Singapore (aircraft related) and France (whiskey and radioactive chemicals and isotopes) were the other significant markets that turned in positive numbers for the quarter.

Otherwise it was the same story around the world. Exports to Mexico were down 5% (automotive goods), to Canada 12% (computers, electronics, DVDs and games, auto parts), and to Australia 13% (boats and machinery). Latin American shipments fell 20%, with even worse numbers from Central America (down 27%) and the Caribbean nations (down 24%). To show how broad was the export collapse, even the state's exports of charitable goods, traditionally important in these latter markets, fell by more than 50% for the quarter. Exports to China dropped by $72 million (18%), with cotton bearing the brunt. Trade with Hong Kong and Taiwan fared even more poorly, off by 38% for the quarter. Shipments to Japan fell by 13%, led by losses in auto parts, chemical, and wood pulp exports. The state's exports to South Korea dropped 17%, while shipments to the Southeast Asian nations were off by 8%. In the European Union, where large losses in chemical, plastics, paper, and machinery exports occurred, Tennessee's exports fell by 17%. Simply put, there was no place to hide.

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