Wisconsin companies exported $5.42 billion in goods during the first quarter of 2019, a 0.66% drop from the same period last year, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The slight change hides a lot of volatility in exports to the state’s largest international destinations. Seven of the top 10 countries for Wisconsin products saw double digit percentage changes from the same time last year.
The biggest change in that group was a $72.5 million, or 20.2%, drop in exports to China. Shipments to Canada were also down $64.3 million or 3.7%. Sales to Mexico, meanwhile, were up $84.3 million or 10.7%.
Nine of the 10 top exports to China during the first quarter last year saw a decrease during the same period this year. Whey and milk products saw the sharpest decline, down $7.9 million or 53.1%, among the top 10. Medical, surgical, dental or veterinary instrument shipments declined $11.6 million or 42.5% and x-ray equipment exports were down $13.1 million or 32.4%.
Top gainers in dollar figures included firefighting vehicles, up $9.1 million, bovine semen, up $2.5 million, gears and gear boxes, up $2.3 million, and industrial heat exchange units, up $1.9 million. All four products categories more than doubled their exports to China during the first quarter of 2018
On the import side, Wisconsin companies brought in $6.83 billion in goods during the first quarter, a 5.1% decrease from last year.
Imports from China were down $65.9 million or 3.7% in the quarter while shipments from Asia overall were down 1.9% or $55.3 million.
Data from 2018’s first quarter predates the back and forth escalation of tariffs between President Donald Trump and China. As Trump increased tariffs on Chinese goods throughout 2018, many companies said they would look to offset the increased costs on products they import from the country through pricing actions or finding new suppliers in other countries.
Other Asian countries appear to have benefited from the trade war with increased exports to Wisconsin. Among those with an increase in the first quarter were Vietnam, up 7.1%, Japan, up 11.4%, Taiwan, up 8.7%, South Korea, up 8.2%, the Philippines, up 24.1%, Malaysia, up 11.9%, Bangladesh, up 69.4% and Thailand, up 19.3%.
Wisconsin imports from those eight countries increased a total of $95 million in the first quarter. The state still imported $1.71 billion in goods from China during the quarter.