Published September 28, 2012
| 24/7 Wall St.
Last year, U.S. exports to China topped $100 billion for the first time. The country is now the third-largest importer of U.S. goods, behind Canada and Mexico. The total value of products being shipped to China is growing faster than any other country in the world. For many U.S. cities, China is the largest and fastest-growing importer of goods and services. In 2011, crop production, computers and electronics, chemicals and transportation equipment were the four largest exports to the country.
While not the biggest overall, China is the largest recipient of U.S. goods from 28 separate states. It is also the biggest export market of many metropolitan regions within those states. Earlier this year, the International Trade Administration (ITA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, released data on total exports by metropolitan statistical area to each country. 24/7 wall St. reviewed the nine metropolitan areas that export the most to China.
As is the case nationwide, the value of goods being shipped to China is growing quickly in these metro regions. In each of these nine markets, the value of goods shipped everywhere else has grown by at least 22% between 2005 and 2011, while the value of the goods shipped to China has grown by at least 42%. In Minneapolis, one of the cities with the most exports to China, the value of goods sent to the country rose by 268%. In Detroit, exports to China grew by 482%.
The government definition of an exporter of a good leaves some room for interpretation. As a result, an exporting city includes the place where a good was manufactured from scratch, where a good was imported and assembled or simply the last point before the good left the country.
According to Marc Ross, director of communications at the U.S.-China Business Council, this leads to some port cities having a disproportionate level of exports that may have barely been manufactured in the area, if at all. This means that port cities like New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Houston, all among the largest exporters to China, will have a disproportionate amount of listed export goods relative to the amount they actually manufactured or assembled.
Because this is a review of the cities that export the most to China, in dollar terms rather than as a proportion of their total exports, many of the cities on this list are simply the largest overall exporters. In New York, which shipped more than $100 billion in goods last year, just $7.4 billion, or 7.1%, were shipped to China. In Detroit, which ships the eighth most to China of any U.S. metro region, total value of those exports comes to just 4.1% of the metro’s total exports. China is only Detroit’s fourth-largest export market, behind Saudi Arabia.
Of course, these areas also have specific industries that are among America’s largest exports. In Detroit and Seattle, transportation equipment, the U.S.’s fourth-largest export to China, represents the biggest overall export. In St. Louis, chemicals — the third biggest U.S. export to China — are the most common product it ships to other countries. In San Francisco, Portland and Los Angeles, computers and electronic parts are the biggest export as well as the second-largest U.S. to China export. Finally, Minneapolis’s largest export, crop production, is the biggest U.S. export to China.
24/7 Wall St. relied on 2011 Metropolitan Export Series data from the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration to identify the nine U.S. cities with the most exports, in U.S. dollars, to China. We also listed the change from 2005 exports to China and total exports, both as a total value and as a proportion of total exports. We obtained national and state export data for 2011 from the U.S.-China Business Council’s report “U.S. Exports to China by State.”