Exports of Alabama-made autos, aerospace parts rise in tough trade year

Exports of Alabama-made autos, aerospace parts rise in tough trade year
A ship is loaded at the Port of Mobile. Alabama exports in 2019 were valued at $20.7 billion, dipping 3% from the previous year in a difficult international trade environment. (contributed)

Despite ongoing disruptions in global trade relationships, Alabama’s exports of goods and services totaled $20.7 billion in 2019 as overseas shipments of motor vehicles, auto parts and aerospace products continued to show strength.

The value of Alabama exports last year declined 3% from 2018’s total and fell just 4.6% shy of the state’s all-time record of $21.7 billion, set in 2017, according to new trade figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Still, Alabama exports have climbed 7% from 2015 and nearly 68% from 2009.

“Although Alabama exports have shown impressive annual increases and, in a few cases, slight decreases, there has been an overall upward trend in recent years,” Gov. Kay Ivey said.

“This highlights the fact that companies across Alabama continue to provide top-quality goods and services that are sought by customers worldwide.”

Transportation equipment is Alabama’s No. 1 export category, accounting for nearly half of all overseas shipments. (Mercedes-Benz)

Reflecting that global appeal, Alabama business exported goods and services to 194 countries in 2019.

The Top 5 destinations were:

  • Canada — $3.87 billion (down 5.5%)
  • Germany — $3.14 billion (a 23% increase)
  • Mexico — $2.25 billion (a 13.5% decline)
  • China — $2.24 billion (down 26%)
  • Japan — $796.1 million (a 4% dip)

Exports to Germany were boosted by a 45% increase in motor vehicle shipments to total nearly $2.3 billion in 2019, while China bought significantly less Alabama-made transportation equipment, figures show.

“Already a hub for industry and innovation, Alabama has established a reputation as a successful exporter of products and services,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“In spite of headwinds affecting global trade, Alabama is poised to take advantage of new opportunities around the world, which will in turn create more and better-paying jobs here at home,” he said.

Transportation equipment

Transportation equipment remained Alabama’s largest export category by far in 2019, rising 2.5% to nearly $10.3 billion – almost half of the state’s total overseas shipments.

Motor vehicles represent the largest portion of exports in this category, totaling $6.7 billion in 2019, up 4% over the year. Alabama-made vehicles were shipped to 84 foreign countries last year, with Germany, Canada and China the leading destinations, figures show.

Alabama ranked as the nation’s fourth-largest auto-exporting state in 2019, after California recorded a surge in exports. Michigan and South Carolina were the top auto-exporting states in 2019.

Aerospace products and parts also represent a significant portion of the transportation equipment category, and exports of these items approached $2.5 billion in 2019, an increase of nearly 5% from the previous year.

Alabama-made exports of aerospace products have jumped more than 60% since 2016.

An Airbus SE A321 plane fuselage sits on the production floor at the company’s final assembly line facility in Mobile. Alabama’s exports of aerospace products increased 5% in 2019. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

‘Economic engine’

The other leading Alabama export sectors in 2019 included chemicals ($2.26 billion), mining ($1.4 billion), forestry products ($1.36 billion) and primary metals ($1.2 billion), according to figures from the Office of International Trade at the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Alabama companies that sell in the global markets continue to keep the state’s economic engine strong,” said Hilda Lockhart, director of the Office of International Trade.

“We know they face daunting barriers and as part of the Export Alabama Alliance, we will continue to help them build relationships around the world through our trade missions and export activities,” she said.

Alabama ranked No. 24 among the states in export volume in 2019, same as the previous year.

Alabama’s decline of 3.12% last year compared similarly to other Southeastern states but was higher than the overall U.S. drop of 1.25% last year.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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