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January 3, 2017

Maine exports up 5% for year, national average is in the red

Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Janine Cary, president and state director of Maine International Trade Center in Portland.

Exports of Maine goods through October 2016 rose 5.8% and likely will end the year up 5%, compared to a negative national average, according to the Maine International Trade Center.

"The 5.8% through October is big news," Janine Bisaillon-Cary, president and state director of international trade at MITC, told Mainebiz. She credited the boost in exports to seafood and aircraft exports, up 30% and 51.2%, respectively.

Exports from the state hit $2.86 billion through October, up from $2.72 billion in 2015.

Nationally, exports through October decreased $58.7 billion or 3.1% from the same period in 2015, according to data released in early December by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Top 5 markets

Canada topped Maine's export markets at $1.14 billion, up 9.24% from the $1.04 billion through October 2015.

Germany was second at $180.2 million, up 135% from $76.4 million in the same period in 2015, primarily due to a significant increase in aircraft engines and parts, said Cary, who was a Mainebiz Next 2014 winner.

China was third at $170.5 million, down 4.8% compared to the previous period, partly due to the higher cost of lobster.

Malaysia came in fourth at $136.5 million, but was down 23% due to fewer semiconductor exports from the state. That could be in part because of ON Semiconductor Corp. of Phoenix completing its $2.4 billion acquisition of Fairchild Semiconductor International Inc. in September 2016, including its plant and offices in South Portland, which employed 700, she noted, as a lot of work has shifted to the San Francisco Bay area now.

Japan came in fifth at $72.8 million, up 12.8% from the $64 million in exports through October 2015. Cary said more than 94% of that rise was from aircraft exports.

Of the top growing markets for Maine products in 2016, Cary cited Canada, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, Belgium, Hong Kong, Australia, the Philippines, Turkey, Sweden and France.

Top exports

Seafood topped the list of export products at $453.8 million, up 30% from the prior year's period. Aircraft engines and parts rose 51.2% to $256.3 million.

Paper and paper board came in third at $242.3 million, electric machinery at $231 million and wood products at $172 million. All three categories were down in 2016, Cary said.

One surprising growth area, Cary said, was gums and thickeners such as agar and pectate used in pharmaceuticals, nutritional additives, toothpaste and foods. Exports of those products were up 1,500%, Cary said.

Also hitting the fast-growing export industries in 2016 were blueberries, value-added and prepared food products as well as iron and steel products.

"All things being the same, a lot of have historical data and they will continue to be strong," she said.

She doesn't expect dramatic export policy changes overnight with the incoming Trump administration.

If the North American Free Trade Agreement among Canada, the United States and Mexico were renegotiated or terminated, as was discussed during the election run-up, Cary said she would expect a bilateral agreement to be put in place immediately. That's because Canada comprises 47% of U.S. exports and Mexico is our 11th largest export market.

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