Arizona exports in the first quarter of this year jumped a healthy 27 percent over the same three-month period a year ago, one of the biggest increases ever, according to figures released Tuesday by the Arizona Department of Commerce and the U.S. Commercial Service.
Arizona businesses exported $4.31 billion worth of goods to foreign countries in the first quarter, up from $3.39 billion a year ago.
NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada continued to be the prime markets for Arizona products, growing at a 16 percent pace for Mexico and 26 percent for Canada, the agencies said.
Sales this year to Mexico are on a pace to top $5 billion for the first time while exports to Canada could reach $2 billion. But exports were strong to Asia and Europe too, as foreign countries scooped up Arizona high tech chips, aircraft parts and minerals.
“At the current pace, Arizona is on track this year for its strongest export performance to date, topping $16 billion for the first time,” said Arizona Department of Commerce director Gilbert Jimenez.
The current record with set in 2005 with foreign sales of $14.9 billion.
The relative weakness of the U.S. dollar may be helping to boost exports, making products from the United States less expensive in foreign currencies, said Eric Nielsen, director of the Arizona U.S. Export Assistance Centers. Another factor is the general strength of foreign economies, he said.
The top category of Arizona exports is electronic products, including semiconductors, which have helped to boost Arizona exports to Malaysia, China and other Asian countries.
Aircraft parts, optics and minerals are other leading export categories.
Metal production was a major factor in the boost to Europe, said Kristian Richardson, international trade specialist for the U.S. Department of Commerce.
A huge 342 percent jump to the Netherlands stems primarily froman increase in the export of molybdenum, a byproduct of copper mining that is used in production of stainless steel.
“A large portion of that is not for end use in the Netherlands,” he said. “It’s an entry point for Europe, and a lot of it is probably being shipped on to Germany, the Czech Republic and other countries for use in car manufacturing. . . . Many central and eastern European countries are increasing their manufacturing and demanding more stainless steel.”