Rochester, How Are We Doing on International Trade?

The Brookings Institution just released a report on trade among the largest metro areas in North America. The summary, an interesting interactive map, and a link to the full report can be found at http://www.brookings.edu/research/interactives/2013/metro-north-america.

After attending the Manufacturing in the Empire State summit organized by the Coalition for a Prosperous America yesterday, I was very interested in how well the Rochester metro area is doing on international trade.

So how are we doing? Rochester is ranked 39th out of all US metro areas in trade with Canada and Mexico. Our total trade with North America (exports plus imports) is $3,687 million. And 58% of Rochester’s trade with North America is in advanced industries—aerospace, automotive, electronics, machinery, pharmaceuticals, and precision instruments.

Importantly, what does the report not tell us? It does not tell us Rochester’s balance of trade with North America. In other words, are we a net exporter or importer of goods and services? If we extrapolate from the data given on trade with both countries in the top five commodities, it appears that we have a small trade surplus within North America. Our larger surplus with Canada seems to more than offset our deficit with Mexico.

Here is a summary of the most heavily traded commodities. Rochester’s greatest trade advantage with both countries is in the manufacture of chemicals and plastics. We have a surplus in precision instruments, with all of the advantage from trade with Canada. Our trade surplus with Canada in machinery and tools is more than offset by our deficit with Mexico. Areas of significant disadvantage include energy products (Canada) and electronics (Mexico).

Finally, Rochester’s trade with North America accounts for only 25% of our total trade. And the federal government does not collect data on imports at the metro area level. As far as I am aware, we have no way of measuring our balance of trade with the rest of the world.

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