An update of international trade trends


  • The Portland-metro region exported one fourth of its economic output in 2012.
  • On the state level, goods exports accounted for 8.4 percent of Oregonís GDP in 2011.
  • Oregon manufacturers and their workers depend on foreign customers for one in every four sales dollars.
  • About 90 percent of Oregon exporters are small- to medium-sized businesses, which employ more than half of Oregonís private sector workforce.
  • While Asia remains Oregonís largest overseas market, the greatest growth in state exports is to free trade partner countries, which accounted for $5.7 billion of total exports in 2012.
  • Overseas investment continues to provide regional jobs. During 2010, nearly 43,000 Oregonians worked for overseas-based companies throughout the state.

Jobs and wages

Job multiplier effect: Recent studies show that international trade directly or indirectly supports about 9,100 jobs at the ports of Portland and Vancouver.2 On a broader scale, the analysis estimates that about 78,500 jobs are directly related to Oregonís exports of goods and services. Another 82,000 jobs are ďindirect jobsĒ3 related to goods or services exports, such as suppliers of parts used in an exported manufactured item. But when factoring in all jobs associated with exporting and importing activities in both Oregonís manufacturing and nonmanufacturing sectors, the employment impact of trade is much larger: Some 490,000 Oregon jobs are supported by trade.



Number of Oregon jobs tied directly or indirectly to, or supported by, international trade; up 20,000 from 2010.

7.5 times.

Amount by which Oregonís trade-related employment grew faster than total employment between 2004 and 2011.

$18 billion.

Value of goods exported from Oregon in 2012; up $3.4 billion from 2009.

$8.2 billion.

Value of services exports from Oregon in 2011; a 21-percent increase since 2008.

$42.2 billion.

Total value of both imported and exported goods in 2012.


Rank of Portland among the largest 100 U.S. metro areas in terms of export value as a share of metro output (24 percent). .


National ranking of Oregon in per capita value of exports in 2012; up from 9th in 2010.

Premium wages for trade-related workers: Recent studies have found that workers in export industries and firms earned substantially more than those in non-exporting businesses. A previous 2010 Value of Jobs study concluded that export-related jobs pay on average 18 percent more than non-exporting jobs across all industries. Wage premiums are even higher in sectors of importance in Oregon. For bluecollar workers working for exporting firms (vs. non-exporting firms in the same sector), wages range from 20 to 40 percent higher in the chemical, machinery, computer and transportation equipment sectors.

Similarly, white-collar workersí wages at exporting companies range between 16 to 32 percent higher in these sectors. In the Portlandmetro area, wage premiums for trade-related workers can be more than 60 percent of the areaís average wage.

Small businesses drive trade: Small- and medium-sized businesses, and familyowned businesses, those with fewer than 500 employees, account for the bulk of Oregonís exporters and, as noted earlier, these businesses employ more than half of Oregonís privatesector workforce. In 2010, more than 90 percent of Oregonís 5,103 exporters were small businesses, up 2 percentage points from 2008. This statistic only accounts for businesses that are direct exporters, not the many companies that provided labor or components to the finished, exported product.

Jobs created by overseas investments: Overseas investments in Oregon also contribute to the regionís economy and job base. Majority-owned affiliates of overseas businesses employed 42,600 Oregon workers, or about 3 percent of Oregonís private-sector workforce, in 2010. Thirty percent of those jobs were at manufacturing firms owned by subsidiaries of overseas businesses.

Latest trends: Goods exports

Oregon and the Portland-metro area continue to be strong centers for the export of commodities, including manufactured goods, food, agricultural products and transportation equipment. In 2012, all exports from Oregon reached $18 billion with $16.5 billion originating in Oregon, as shown in Figure 1. This total was down about 6 percent compared to 2008 (before the global recession hit) but represented a third successive year of post-recession growth.

Leading sectors: Ten sectors continue to account for the majority of Oregonís exported goods; in 2012 they were responsible for 88 percent of export revenue. Not surprisingly, however, nearly 40 percent could be attributed to just one sector Ė computers and electronics. Machinery, chemicals and transportation equipment together represented about 27 percent of total merchandise exports. Further down the list, but of particular significance, are Oregon wood products, which make up about 9 percent of total U.S. exports in this category.


To keep costs low, Portland-based Totem Steel sources from mills not only in the U.S. but in China, India, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia, Brazil and Mexico. It then supplies flat-rolled steel products through various value added programs to American and Canadian manufacturers of niche products such as residential HVAC equipment, metal building, entry and garage doors, metal furniture and shelving and steel drums and coiled tubing, which are exported all over the world.

Mixed recovery: Since the recession, recovery among leading exporting sectors has been mixed. While computers and electronics saw sales grow in 2010, that sector has contracted in recent years due to weak global demand for computers and related products. Some sectors that rebounded strongly in 2010 and 2011, including chemical exports (ranging from fertilizers to pharmaceuticals, primary metal products to scrap and waste), saw sales contract in 2012. In contrast, machinery, transportation equipment and food products, among others, have snapped back to steady growth since 2009. Aerospace exports in 2012 surpassed their 2008 levels, as have exports of agriculture, construction, industrial and services machinery, and preserves and specialty foods.

Free trade partners: Goods exported to 20 Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partner countries account for 35 percent of Oregon exports ($5.7 billion in 2012). Products going to these countries include agricultural goods and the fertilizers/pesticides and machinery needed to grow crops, scrap to make steel as well as finished steel products, plus motor vehicles and industrial machinery. Three of the top seven export markets are FTA partner markets, see Figure 2.

Latest trends: Services exports

Broader market reach: Exported services are increasingly important to the regionís economy, which now total $8.2 billion, see Figure 3. Particularly important is the export of technical services such as industrial process royalties, software licenses, and research and development. Compared to goods exports, exports of services are spread across a greater number of foreign markets. While sales to Europe, Oregonís single largest overseas market for services, dipped during Europeís own economic decline in 2009-10, sales have since recovered. Sales to Asia and other Pacific Rim countries grew steadily during that period. Service exports to Asia rose from 24 to 29 percent of total export value between 2008 and 2011. Service exports to China alone rose from 2.9 to 4.5 percent of total regional exports during that period. The top service export markets can be seen in Figure 4.


Viewpoint Construction Software, headquartered in Portland, provides technology tools to help construction professionals efficiently manage all areas of operations. Viewpoint is not a software company creating construction products, but more accurately a construction-minded company creating software solutions. With offices in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada, Viewpoint is expanding its reach from across the U.S. to around the globe.

Overall export trends

Free trade partners boost growth: Many trade bright spots can be found among FTA partner countries. For example, merchandise exports to Canada now account for 18.5 percent of Oregonís total exports, up from 16.6 percent in 2008. Sales to nearly every South American market, while relatively small (4 percent of total), have grown substantially since 2008 Ė exports to Brazil and Colombia are up about 40 percent; to Chile, 70 percent; and to Peru, nearly double to 97 percent. Of note, Canada and the latter three South American countries are all free trade partners.

Some trade is down: Oregon now exports to nearly 250 countries and territories around the globe. While Portland-metroís Pacific Rim location has prompted a focus on export activity in Asia (which accounts for more than half of the regionís exports), the global recession took a significant bite out of Oregon goods exports. China, Oregonís largest market after Canada, once received 14 percent of Oregon exports but now receives 13 percent (worth about $2.2 billion). Likewise, goods exports to Malaysia, Japan, Korea and Taiwan declined in 2009 and sales to several other Asian countries have yet to recover.

Asian countries are showing a greater appetite for Oregon products: Exports to pending-FTA partner Vietnam, thanks to new semiconductor co-production opportunities, have jumped from $66 million (2008) to nearly $573 million. Exports to pending-FTA partner Japan and 2012 FTA partner South Korea have grown at an average annual rate exceeding 18 percent since 2009. Two additional trade negotiations currently in progress, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, would further reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers that keep foreign markets closed to Oregon goods and services.

The rest of the story: Oregon imports are an economic driver

Oregon and the Portland-metro regionís international trade story cannot be told without the other side of the trade equation: Imports. More than $16 billion in goods were imported to Oregon in 2012. More than 65 percent of the imports were raw materials, processed raw materials and components, and machinery and industrial equipment used by farmers, manufacturers and others to produce goods and services in Oregon. This activity requires people managing the logistics, handling, sales and other activities related to getting these goods and services to the customer.

Additionally, by providing access to lower cost materials, imports continue to play an important role enabling regional manufacturers and service providers to compete for sales in global, national and regional markets.

Oregonís role in the global integrated supply chain

When looking at the list of imports, it is clear that Oregon and the Portland-metro region are part of a bigger story Ė a global story. Increasingly, Oregon companies and workers are part of an integrated global supply chain. Businesses export goods and services to foreign customers who manufacture finished products from those Oregon inputs. Thanks to lower transportation costs, reductions in tariff and non-tariff trade barriers around the world Ė and the Internet, among other factors Ė these supply chains have grown quite large and specialized.

For example, U.S. (and Oregon) electronics parts and components are often exported to Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan, where they are partially assembled, and then shipped to China for final assembly before being exported back to the U.S. Recent research has found that 8.3 percent of the value of U.S. imports reflects U.S. content. The share is higher for imports from Asia, Oregonís chief export market, where about 30 percent of the value of U.S. imports reflects U.S. content. And 63 percent of the value of U.S. electronics imports from Asia reflects U.S. value.

2 7,400 jobs at the Port of Portland in 2011; 1,700 jobs at the Port of Vancouver in 2010; these are jobs supported by international trade only, excluding domestic trade. For job totals harbor-wide, which include private entities, see the trade-based business study later in this report.

3 Sometimes called ďinducedĒ jobs, this can include manufacturing suppliers, professional services such as accounting and legal firms as well as other services such as daycare and catering.