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Alabama exports hover near record amid global struggles

Wednesday, February 17, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Ford Boswell
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Despite headwinds in global markets, Alabama exports in last year held steady at near-record levels on growing overseas shipments of products such as transportation equipment, primary metals and machinery.

Figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce show that Alabama exports totaled $19.37 billion last year, just below the all-time record of $19.58 billion set in 2012. Last year’s total represents a slight decline — 0.36 percent – from the figure for 2014 — $19.44 billion.

Alabama exports have grown 25 percent since 2010 and 78 percent since 2005, these figures show.

“Alabama companies operating in the global economy through exports continue to be one of the state’s most powerful growth engines,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “By trading Alabama-made products overseas, these companies support Alabama communities and create well-paying jobs for citizens across our state.

“We want to continue helping Alabama companies reach new customers around the globe because their exporting activities pay significant benefits here at home,” he added.

Coal shipments slump

Alabama companies exported goods to 188 countries in 2015, with transportation equipment once again the No. 1 category with shipments valued at $9.3 billion, an increase of 7.5 percent from the prior year. Other top export categories were chemicals, iron and steel, machinery and paper.

Foreign shipments of Alabama minerals and ores – primarily coal – declined 38 percent to $705.8 million last year, dragging down the state’s overall export total. In 2011, Alabama mineral exports topped $2.2 billion, and the decrease reflects the mounting difficulties of the global coal industry and sharply reduced demand for the product.

“Alabama’s exports remained vital last year in spite of turbulence in the global economy, which included a collapse in oil prices and a slowdown in China,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “Exports of Alabama-made vehicle and parts continue to expand, underscoring the state’s status as a major player in this international industry, while there were also meaningful gains in exports of aerospace parts, machinery and paper.”

While Alabama exports held steady in 2015, U.S. exports overall were down 7.5 percent from the prior year.

The Top 5 markets for Alabama 2015 exports were: Canada ($4.1 billion, down 4.7 percent); China ($3.2 billion, up nearly 1 percent); Mexico ($2.9 billion, up 24 percent); Germany ($2.5 billion, up 15 percent); and United Kingdom ($610 million, up 2 percent).

Autos power gains

Exports of Alabama-made vehicles climbed 5.8 percent to $7 billion last year, while overseas shipments of motor vehicles jumped 18 percent to $1.2 billion, figures show. Exports of Alabama-made aerospace products and parts rose 16 percent to $868 million.

Other major export categories with gains in 2015 were: primary metals ($1.6 billion, up 5 percent); machinery ($1.1 billion, up 25 percent); paper ($805 million, up 19 percent); and plastics and rubber products ($423 million, up 12 percent).

“The economic benefits of exporting are very clear,” said Hilda Lockhart, director of Commerce’s International Trade Office. “Our focus at the Alabama Department of Commerce has always been to work with small- and medium-sized companies to help them sell their products in new and expanding markets.

“The trade and business development missions we undertake each year are a key component of our international strategy,” she added. “For Alabama companies, the opportunities far outweigh the challenges when you have our agency, along with the Export Alabama Alliance, providing assistance in every nuance of international trade.”

--Alabama Dept. of Commerce

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