Trade steps up

Trade steps up



Strong housing markets deserve much of the credit for the recent strength of the Pacific Northwest economy. But don’t overlook the importance of growing international trade. New state-level data on 2005 merchandise exports show the Pacific Northwest on pace to break by a wide margin 1999’s record of $52.4 billion in exports.

Washington exports are turning around due to resurgent production at Boeing. Aircraft, because of their high value, tend to overshadow other Washington exports. Aircraft accounted for two-thirds of Washington’s 2002 exports, 58% of 2003’s total and 51% of 2004’s.

After aircraft, Washington’s big export categories include (among others) cereals, electrical and industrial machinery, wood exports grew at a strong 22% in 2003 and 17% in 2004. Japan, Canada, China, Taiwan and Korea were Washington’s leading 2004 export destinations.

After a red-hot 2004 (exports were up 39%), Idaho’s export growth slowed in 2005. The top three categories of Idaho exports in 2004 all were related to high tech: digital integrated circuits — think Micron Technology memory  chips — plus computer parts and other integrated circuits. The United Kingdom was Idaho's top 2004 customer, followed by Canada, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan.

Oregon had the slowest export growth in the first three quarters of 2005. Computer logic chips made by Intel factories in Oregon are among the state’s leading exports. Oregon high-tech exports have yet to recover fully to the peak reached in 2000, the year of the dotcom bubble burst. Top destinations for Oregon exports in 2004 were, in order, Canada, Japan, Korea, China and the Philippines.

In another aspect of international trade, traffic continues to rise at the West Coast’s principal container ports. Through October, the Port of Seattle handed 1.12 million 20-foot equivalent containter units (or TEUs), up 29% from the corresponding 2004 stretch. At the Port of Tacoma, TEU traffic was up 17%.

— Excerpted from Marple’s Pacific Northwest Letter, editor Michael Parks. For information on this biweekly report on Northwest economic trends, visit www.marples.com.