Wisconsin exports flat in 2018, import growth outpacing U.S.

Exports to Asia down more than 10 percent this year

wisconsin exports

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:07 pm

Wisconsin exports were essentially flat in the first nine months of 2018, even as the state’s imports grew faster than the country as a whole, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data.

The state’s companies exported $17.36 billion in goods and services through the end of September, down 0.1 percent from the same period in 2017. The decrease was among the slowest growth rates in the country, which increased exports 9.1 percent.

Imports into Wisconsin, however, were up 12.3 percent to $22.47 billion, outpacing the overall increase in the U.S. of 9.4 percent.

The new trade data comes after many manufacturers in the region have complained that increasing tariffs from the Trump administration – first on steel and aluminum and then on Chinese goods – and the retaliatory actions by other countries have cut into their profitability and made it difficult to do business. It’s unclear how much the trade war limited exports, but a recent report from Americans for Free Trade estimated the actions cost Wisconsin companies $54 million over the summer.

Beyond tariffs, Wisconsin’s sluggish export numbers are also partially the result of large shipments to Saudi Arabia in 2017. More than $720 million in goods were shipped to the Middle Eastern kingdom through September last year, compared to $142 million this year.

But excluding the Saudi figures from Wisconsin’s totals, exports are up just 3.4 percent this year, well behind the country as a whole.

Shipments to Asia are down 10.3 percent, including a decline of 5.5 percent to China and 6.2 percent to Japan.

Despite rising trade tensions through the early part of the year, exports to Canada and Mexico, the two largest destinations for Wisconsin goods, are up 3 and 5.2 percent respectively.

Other top growth destinations included Germany, up 22.6 percent, South Korea, up 16.7 percent, and the Netherlands, up 13.5 percent.

Imports from China increased 11.6 percent in the first three quarters of the year and 13.4 percent from Canada. Shipments from the European Union, another of the top targets for President Donald Trump’s trade negotiations, increased 18.6 percent.

Imports from Mexico increased just 1.3 percent.

The major metals at the heart of the Trump administration’s initial tariffs saw two divergent pictures when it comes to imports.

Shipments of iron and steel and articles made from those materials increased 1 percent to $560.9 million.

Aluminum shipments, on the other hand, were up 52 percent to $210.4 million.

Read more economic data reports from the BizTracker page.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

No posts to display