Tennessee Trade Report 3rd Quarter 2022

Tables and Graphs

Largest Exports

Tennessee's Largest Markets

Tennessee's Most Rapidly Growing Exports

Tennessee's Most Rapidly Growing Markets

It’s all how you want to look at it. Last quarter’s Tennessee state exports were 8.7 percent higher than that of the third quarter of 2021. The $778 million gain pushed the state almost to the $10 billion mark for the quarter ($9.72 billion). On the other hand, the state did lag behind the nation. Total American exports were up by 22 percent over this same period, with thirty-three states turning in better growth numbers than did Tennessee.

A Quarter of Big Gains, And Big Losses

Far more than usual, it was a quarter of big gains and big losses. The most sizable gains were in Canada, where state exports were up 36.9 percent. This was mostly due to new vaccine shipments (valued at $360 million). Exports of automobiles, usually the largest sector of the state’s trade with our northern neighbor also grew, albeit more modestly, from $253 million to $282 million. Increased shipments in the automotive sector were also at the heart of gains to Mexico rose well (from $1.06 billion to $1.23 billion).

...With Europe the Site of Most of Them

Europe saw the most dramatic swings in Tennessee trade. Overall, exports to the euro zone fell by almost 18 percent, amounting to a loss of about $350 million. But within that, there were remarkable increases in sales to Germany (up by $214 million) and France (up $152 million), the former due to platinum while the latter was due to individual-dosed medicaments.  Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Ireland were the markets where the substantial declines occurred. Belgium’s $600 million far was by far the largest biggest fall. This was almost entirely in the pharmaceutical sector. Outside the euro zone, exports to Russia dropped drastically, for obvious reasons, but this loss was more than equaled by the gains due to a large aircraft shipment to the U.K.

Exports to China itself were surprisingly strong given both the covid lockdowns in that country and the increasing trade tensions with the U.S. Once again it was the medical sector that made the difference. Medicaments and pharmaceuticals (mostly surgical catgut) gained nearly $100 million gain. Reduced shipments of cell phones to Hong Kong of just about the same amount, however, to a net of about zero if we include the two markets together. Surgical catgut, by the way, accounted for a stunning 400 percent increase in exports to India (to $312 million).

Elsewhere in the world, the loss of 2021’s third quarter vaccine exports caused a big drop in the South Korean market and despite gains in Brazil and Ecuador, overall sales to Latin America fell by nearly $100 million to $683 million. The Middle East automotive market (Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Kuwait, and Qatar), though, combined for a ten percent gain (to $248 million), and yes, almost all in automobiles.

The Medical Sector is Where the Much of the Action Was

Turning to the exports themselves, most of the big changes major were in the medical sector. Surgical catgut, along with other pharmaceuticals and medicaments were the quarter’s big gainers. Medical instruments, still the state’s largest single export, grew from $734 million to $781 million. On the flip side, sales of medical needles fell by $40 million, to $83 million, while vaccine shipments declined substantially. These fell by over $400 million dollars to $367 million.

Cotton (up $105 million, mostly to Bangladesh and Pakistan) and aircraft (up $99 million) were two other strong export sectors. Smartphones along with pigments and dyes were among the largest sectors experiencing losses for the quarter. A one-off $60 million shipment of helicopters to the Netherlands in 2021 was not repeated. That made it the single worst-performing exported good of the quarter.

So Was There a Big Picture?

It's hard to find the big picture for a quarter that saw such large individual swings. This likely reflects and reinforces all the uncertainties in the recent global economy. Even more than usual, individual markets and individual goods are going their separate ways. Yet one more challenge for Tennessee’s exporters to deal with!