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California's Export Trade Continues Vigorous Growth, Sustained Increases Expected as Economies of China and Other Trading Partners Expand

APRIL 13, 2010—SAN RAFAEL, CALIFORNIA—California’s merchandise export trade saw continued vigorous growth in February, with the value of shipments up by 13.7 percent over the same month last year.

The $10.38 billion in goods shipped abroad this February exceeded the $9.13 billion the state's exporters sent to foreign markets in February 2009, according to an analysis by Beacon Economics of international trade data released this morning by the U.S. Commerce Department.

February marked the fourth consecutive month of year-over-year increases in California’s export trade.

“Even so, we are only now getting back to the level of exporting we were at three years ago, before the global financial and economic crisis sent international trade spiraling downward,” according to Jock O’Connell, Beacon Economics International Trade Adviser.

California’s exports of manufactured products increased by 7.3 percent from last February, while shipments of agricultural goods and other non-manufactured products rose by 36.9 percent. Re-exports of items previously imported into the state jumped by 25.5 percent.

O’Connell notes that the state should see sustained growth in its export trade in coming months, "if only because the economies of most of our top trading partners are expanding."

He also pointed to reports in the last few days that China might soon allow its currency to appreciate against the dollar, a development which would make American goods cheaper for Chinese businesses and consumers.

“This could provide a huge boost to California’s export trade not only because of the size of the Chinese market but because other major Far Eastern economies are expected to follow suit by permitting their currencies to likewise rise in value against the dollar,” O’Connell said.

“The most worrisome prospect on the current horizon involves the sovereign debt crisis gripping the European Union and especially those countries in the euro zone,” he warned. Eight European nations, not all of whom use the euro as their currency, rank among California’s Top 25 export markets.

“It’s just not that the euro has been losing ground against the dollar as the crisis has unfolded over the last several weeks, it’s that the steps needed to restore fiscal health to counties like Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland are likely to retard economic growth throughout the EU,” O’Connell said.

February’s rise in the state’s export trade was reflected at California’s major international trade gateways. The number of loaded shipping containers leaving the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland were up by 27.5 percent over from last year. Similarly, at Los Angeles International and San Francisco International, the state’s two primary international airports, export tonnage in February increased by 26.3 percent over last February.

California accounted for 11.1 percent of all U.S. merchandise exports in February.

On the import side of the ledger, the U.S. Commerce Department reports that California’s merchandise import trade totaled $22.53 billion in February, a jump of 38.3 percent over last February.

California’s international trade deficit in February amounted to $12.15 billion.

NOTE: Additional data on California's international trade are available at: