The value of Oregon’s exports reached a record $21.8 billion in 2016.
Governor Kate Brown’s recent trade mission to Asia shows how important Asian markets are to Oregon’s economy. In October, she visited Japan, China and Vietnam, where Oregon exports billions of dollars of goods annually.
The value of Oregon exports has increased 15% since 2012, reaching a record $21.8 billion in 2016.
I took a dive into export data to see which sectors represent Oregon’s largest exports and which countries are its biggest trading partners.
Oregon’s largest export industry by far is computer and electronic products. Exports in this category have increased 53% since 2012 to $9.8 billion in 2016. China imports the highest percentage of high-tech products — $3.2 billion in 2016.
But the data does not give a clear picture of the value of computer and electronic products that are sold in Asia. Included in the export numbers are computer and electronic parts that are shipped to Asia for assembly. Intel ships the highest volume of high tech products to factories in Asian countries. Once assembled, some of the products are imported back into the U.S., and some are sold in local Asian markets, and elsewhere.
Machinery and transportation equipment are two other large export categories. Both have seen strong export growth over the past five years. Machinery exports rose 55% since 2012 to $2.7 billion. Transportation equipment exports, which include railcars and heavy trucks, increased 63% to $1.9 billion.
The value of exports of apparel and accessories has been one of the strongest growth areas percentage wise since 2012 – the value of these goods grew 90% over the past five years. But the value of apparel and accessories at $24.3 million is a drop in the bucket compared to other industries.
The value of exports in several industries have also declined over the past five years. Agricultural products, which represents Oregon’s fifth largest export sector, is down 28% to $1.9 billion in 2016. Japan in the largest importer of agricultural products. In 2016, it imported $384 million worth of agricultural products.
The decline in commodity prices for agricultural products explains the fall in dollar value of Oregon’s ag exports, said Josh Lehner, economist at the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. The decline in value does not necessarily represent a fall in tonnage of ag products shipped overseas, he added.
Other export industries in decline are wood and paper products. Lehner said China used to buy a lot of wood products from the Pacific Northwest after Russia, a large exporter of lumber, imposed a trade tariff on the product. Now that tariff is gone and the value of wood products exports is down 24% since 2012 to $398 million. The value of paper exports fell 47% over the same period to $236 million.
Oregon’s largest trading partners are China, Malaysia, Canada, Korea, Japan and Vietnam. Exports to China have more than doubled over the past five years to $5.8 billion in 2016. Most of these exports are in high tech computer products. But it is also a large importer of transportation equipment ($1.2 billion in 2016) and machinery ($360 million in 2016).
Vietnam is another strong export market for Oregon with the value of products shipped to this country increasing more than 200% since 2012 to $1.9 billion in 2016.
Export markets that are in decline include Canada, where the value of imported goods has fallen 28% over five years to $2 billion in 2016. The value of exports of machinery, the main export type to Oregon’s northern neighbor, is down 58% since 2014. This is partly the result of a decline in Canada’s mining industry as well as the strength of the U.S. dollar.