While Wisconsin’s most well-known commodities may be cheese, beer and brats, most of the state’s exports are agricultural and construction machinery, along with medical and scientific instruments, which bring tens of billions of dollars into the state every year.
For their economic impact, these exports may be more important for the state’s economic health than its other staple products.
In a report released by the conservative MacIver Institute Monday, the group’s President Brett Healy called for Washington politicians to pass the renewal of the Trade Promotion Authority, which would give President Barack Obama more flexibility in negotiating trade deals.
Healy said international exports are critical to Wisconsin’s economy, citing the $24 billion worth of Wisconsin goods that were exported to countries around the world in 2012, accounting for about 9 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation took a similar stance on the importance of international trade for the state’s economy, especially for the workers.
“If you look at all of the statistics, firms that are new to exporting increase their employment four times faster than a non-exporting company, and wages are typically anywhere from 13 to 18 percent higher than non-exporting firms,” Lora Klenke, WEDC vice president for international business development, said.
Wisconsin has grown as an international exporter in recent years and reached more than 210 countries with its exports last year, she said.
Laura Dresser, associate director at the liberal-leaning Center on Wisconsin Strategy, said international trade is crucial to Wisconsin’s economy due to the number of manufacturing jobs it creates within the state.
Dresser said the depreciating value of the U.S. dollar is an economic issue that needs to be focused on prior to trade agreements. Driving up exports will help to accomplish this goal, she said.
According to a report by Trade Benefits America, more than one in five Wisconsin jobs depends on domestic and international trade. Wisconsin trade-related employment grew 22 percent between 2004 and 2011, as the state’s total job growth stagnated.
Canada, Mexico and China are Wisconsin’s top three export destinations, with Mexico and China importing more than $2 billion in Wisconsin-based merchandise and Canada importing more than $7 billion, according to the report.
Klenke identified China and India as two major trade targets for Wisconsin in the future due to their rapidly expanding middle classes.
“Experts are predicting that by 2030, 65 percent of the world’s middle class are going to be residing in China and India alone, so we have to have a plan for those markets,” she said.
Klenke also said WEDC is creating a plan to focus on future Indian and Chinese markets and has arranged for a delegation of Wisconsin businesses to travel to India for networking in the coming week.
Wisconsin’s main exports include agricultural and construction machinery, along with medical and scientific instruments, according to statistics from WEDC. Wisconsin’s exports in agricultural products are expected to grow, and Klenke predicts that growing middle classes around the world will demand Wisconsin products.
“Individuals not only are going to have to eat, but they will want higher-quality, higher-protein, processed foods, and that’s something our state can supply,” Klenke said.