ROGERS — Arkansas exports remained strong in 2019, accounting for $6.2 billion in trade while supporting over one-fourth of the state’s workforce, according to a newly released report compiled by the World Trade Center Arkansas.
“Arkansas has a diverse economy, which propels the export ecosystem of the state. The trade partners and industry diversity, promote a fertile environment for small business exports in Arkansas.” said Melvin Torres, the Center’s director of Western Hemisphere trade and author of the report.
“As of December 2019, international trade in Arkansas supported nearly 350,000 jobs, while Arkansas’ total exports have increased by 18% since 2009 and reached 167 countries.” Torres added
Canada and Mexico, respectively, continued to be the Natural State’s top two trading partners. Exports to the two countries amounted to approximately $2.3 billion in goods, while the state had a combined positive trade balance (meaning Arkansas exported more than it imported) with both countries of $485 million. With the implementation of the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA) on July 1, trade could increase even further between Arkansas’ two largest trading partners.
France was the third largest partner after Mexico with a strong $711 million in exports, while Japan ($372 million) and China ($191 million) round out the state’s top five export partners.
Close to half of Arkansas’ exports — 47% — went to the Western Hemisphere. Europe followed with 26%, then Asia (21%) and the Middle East (2.5%) during 2019.
Meanwhile, agriculture, remains the backbone of Arkansas’ economy. Arkansas farmers export approximately $3 billion in agriculture and agrifood every year. In 2019, the state remains the nation’s top rice producer, but was also the second largest poultry producer in the U.S. and the fifth largest cotton exporter.
“Our Arkansas farmers and agribusinesses continue to be vital for state exports.” Torres added
On the other hand, Arkansas’ small businesses played a vital role in international trade. Nearly 80% of exporters in Arkansas were small businesses. Over the last few years, Arkansas trade-related jobs have grown six times faster than total employment, paid up to 18% more than similar jobs at non-exporting firms and were shown to be more secure.
“Small businesses account for the majority of exporters in our state, making it self evident that small businesses are critical drivers of exports in Arkansas.” Torres added
However, like the rest of the world, Arkansas wasn’t immune to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, which began to emerge in early 2020. Torres said the pandemic will have an impact on Arkansas exports, but that data will be available and reflected in next year’s report.
“During export year 2020, we expect to see a more diversified supply chain,” Torres said. “This may include more manufacturing and sourcing outside of China as a result of COVID-19 pandemic supply chain disruptions.”
Roxane Gomez, a trade specialist at the Center, helped Torres compile the report.
The Center’s mission is to grow trade and increase Arkansas exports by connecting Arkansas businesses to the world through international trade services. The center is part of the University of Arkansas and serves as the official international trade promotion arm for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. For more information and valuable updates, please follow the center on Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to the World Trade Center Arkansas newsletter.