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Where trade changes could have the most impact

By Jonathan Sweet

So I found this series of maps fascinating.

There's been plenty of talk lately about imports, exports, tariffs and possible trade wars as the new administration lays out its approach to trade. Depending what side of the political spectrum we're hearing from, it's either bold action to save U.S. jobs or the fast lane to economic devastation.

Regardless, this analysis from the Washington Post based on research from the Brookings Institution highlights the areas that currently realize a large benefit from exports. In theory, that means a potential trade war would hurt these areas the most. In most cases, these are smaller metro areas, such as Columbus, Ind., (home of Cummins); Fond du Lac. Wis. (home of Mercury); and several Indiana towns that make a lot of money from the RV and pontoon businesses.

The study shows that most cities rely on exports for 8 to 16 percent of their GDP, but smaller cities are much more likely to rely on exports for 16 to 50 percent of their GDP. Those smaller towns are much more likely to have specialized in just one or two industries.

For these areas, new trade policies could have benefits. For example, if Trump renegotiates the free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, U.S. manufacturers could end up selling more goods to neighboring countries. However, it’s possible any trade benefits would go to other communities entirely. Many of the manufacturing jobs that have been created in the U.S. in recent years have not come back to the same places that lost them.

There’s also a chance that changes to trade could hold unintended consequences for these smaller, export-focused cities, says [Joseph Parilla, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program]. “Even though many have, I think, struggled in terms of their industrial transitions over the past 30 years, they still have important export bases that [help] drive their economies,” Parilla says. “They’ve got more to potentially lose if there are major uncertainties in trade.”

Click through to see all the maps and charts.

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One comment

  1. Jonathan, good find! All this observation should help our portion of the markets, even if it only strengthens the used boat segment of affordability. that is a very nice article on the impact of trade from Brookings Institution. Rural and small town America do stand to gain with the present economic direction. Of course Beaumont and others are petroleum industry and chemical related markets and those will also remain stronger with the present executive branches operative mode. It's a new dawn in America and we as an industry have niches to figure out.

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