Wisconsin exports are now down $1.4 billion from 2019, before counting December

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Wisconsin’s exports declined 7% in the first 11 months of the year, but had trended positively for several months after plummeting in April and May as the COVID-19 pandemic set in.

That trend has reversed over the last two months of data. In October, exports from Wisconsin were down 0.5% from the same time in 2019. In November, the decline increased to 3.1%, according to data released Thursday by the Census Bureau.

The decline in November was driven by a 20% drop in exports to Europe, a decrease of around $85 million. Exports to Canada and Mexico, two top destinations for Wisconsin products, were also down 0.5% and 2.6% for the month.

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Exports to China, on the other hand, were up 14.6% for November, a jump of around $16 million, after a nearly 23% decline for October.

For the first 11 months of 2020, exports to China increased 13.7% or $169 million as trade relations rebound following escalating tariffs in previous years. As of November, exports to China are still $88 million behind 2018 levels and $161 million behind 2017 levels.

Worldwide, Wisconsin exports are down around $1.4 billion from 2019 and nearly 11%, or $2.26 billion from 2018 levels.

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While exports to China are up year-over-year after the trade war was resolved, exports to other top destinations are down, including a 10% drop, around $624 million, in exports to Canada and $745 million or 24% for Mexico. Exports to Europe are also down $337 million or 8%.

Wisconsin’s 7% decline in exports is actually the 14th best performance across the country. Just six states, Nevada, Oregon, New Jersey, Utah, Colorado, and South Dakota, have increased exports this year.

Among nearby states, only Iowa is ahead of Wisconsin with a 4.5% decline. Minnesota is down 9.7%, Indiana dropped 11.9%, Illinois is off 12.1% and Michigan is down 23%.

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Wisconsin imports are also down, dropping 7.4% for the year, even after a 15.4% increase in November. The decline amounts to a $1.93 billion drop in imports compared to 2019 and a more than $4 billion drop from 2018 levels.

Imports from China were up 23% in November but are down 15.8% for the year, a decline of roughly $936 million. Compared to 2018, imports from China are down nearly $2.5 billion for the first 11 months of 2020.

Some of those imports appear to have shifted toward other Asian countries. Imports from Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam combined to increase around $468 million from 2019 to 2020 and nearly $780 million from 2018 levels.

Those increases, however, don’t fully account for the decline in imports from China and other countries, including India, Indonesia and the Philippines, which have seen decreases in imports to Wisconsin as well.

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