It isn’t surprising that major economic centers such as Los Angeles and San Francisco could get smacked by President Donald Trump’s “America first” trade policy.
But measured by how much of their total economic output is tied to exports, smaller metro areas – including some Trump strongholds – could be the most exposed if he starts a trade war.
The Brookings Institution’s Export Monitor found that these areas depend far more on trade because they’re home to companies that make products with a competitive advantage in the world market.
For instance, Columbus, Ind., which includes several machine manufacturers, ranks first among all 381 metro areas with exports accounting for 51 percent of total GDP in 2015. Wichita and Seattle (aerospace) rank relatively high, as do Portland and Ogden, Utah, (electronics) and Beaumont, Texas, and Lake Charles, La., (energy), according to the analysis.
Many larger cities have higher total exports, but with more diversified economies, they are less reliant on trade. So are government towns and tourist destinations.
Among California metro areas, San Jose ranks the highest – 62nd, with $27.4 billion in exports accounting for 15 percent of its GDP. San Francisco comes in at No. 151 with its exports totaling 11 percent of its economic output.
While Sacramento boasts nearly $7.4 billion in exports, that’s only 6 percent of GDP, ranking all the way down at No. 340 and No. 97 among the 100 biggest metro areas. (Memo to Sacramento economic development officials: This is another area with lots of room for improvement.)
Officials across the nation are watching warily as Trump disrupts long-standing U.S. trade policy. He withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, vows to redo the North American Free Trade Agreement and threatens to retaliate against China.
Faqiang Ren, deputy consul general at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, dropped by The Bee’s editorial board the other day to remind us that trade between the United States and China is about $580 billion a year. He didn’t mention that the U.S. trade deficit with China was nearly $350 billion last year, or that 3.4 million jobs were lost due to that imbalance between 2001 and 2015, according to one study.
That’s what Trump harps on when he talks tough. But a trade war wouldn’t be good for anyone – certainly not California, the No. 2 exporting state, but also not for red states, including No. 1 Texas. Overall, counties that Trump won count on exports for 13 percent of their GDP, compared to 10 percent for those that supported Hillary Clinton, according to the Export Monitor.
And Jock O’Connell, a trade economist affiliated with Beacon Economics, computes that if Trump actually goes through with a 20 percent “border tax” to pay for his wall, states that voted for him would pay 70 percent of the bill since that’s their share of imports from Mexico.
Even Trump supporters who chanted, “Build the wall,” wouldn’t be thrilled about that.
By the numbers
A look at the importance of exports to the economies of selected California metro areas in 2015:
Source: Brookings Institution