Md. exports gained 6% last year, U.S. reports Figures criticized but closely watched

February 21, 1997|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,SUN STAFF

The value of Maryland's direct exports of automobiles, electrical components, crops and other goods increased by 6 percent last year, a new government report shows, as the state benefited from the world's growing demand for U.S. products.

Several analysts played down the results, however. The figures, released yesterday by the Commerce Department, don't include Maryland goods that are components of finished products exported from some other state, they said.

Nor do they include service exports, which are largely unmeasurable state-by-state but which account for Maryland's true international strength. And they take no account of Maryland's international imports, which probably far exceed goods exports, one analyst said, and have helped beat up the state's manufacturing base.

But the results are being closely watched, nevertheless. Gov. Parris N. Glendening has emphasized exports as one way for Maryland to speed economic growth, and trade consultants say that more Maryland companies than ever are looking at overseas chances.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that the country's total exports -- goods and services -- increased by 6 percent to $833.7 billion last year. U.S. imports, however, surpassed that figure by $114.2 billion, yielding a record trade deficit.

"As a share of total economic activity, Maryland's exports are still small," said Mark Zandi, chief economist with Regional Financial Associates, an economic forecasting firm in West Chester, Pa. "But in terms of export contributing to growth, it's quite significant."

Maryland directly shipped goods worth $3.5 billion overseas last year, up from $3.3 billion in 1995. Results might have been better if Baltimore's General Motors plant, a major state exporter, hadn't been idled by a strike by a Dayton, Ohio, brake plant last year, said James Hughes, director of international trade for Maryland's economic development department.

In the next few weeks, a Massachusetts consulting firm will report on Maryland's direct and indirect goods exports for 1996 -- including Maryland components assembled in factories in other states before being shipped offshore. For 1995, indirect and direct goods exports came to $6.2 billion for Maryland.

Hughes expects the report will show that indirect exports grew last year by about the same amount as direct ones.

fTC Either way, merchandise exports account for a small portion of Maryland's $120 billion economy, which has a relatively small manufacturing component. Service exports, from treating foreign patients at Johns Hopkins Hospital to selling architecture blueprints to China, make up a much bigger piece, analysts said.

And Maryland ships far fewer goods offshore than some other other industrial Northeast states.

Pennsylvania's direct merchandise exports last year were $17.4 billion, 15 percent more than in 1995, the Commerce Department said yesterday. Virginia's were $10.9 billion, down 15 percent. Even Delaware, which more than doubled direct goods exports last year to $4.6 billion, beat Maryland's $3.5 billion.

Even though it is impossible to measure Maryland's share of the national trade deficit, "Maryland very clearly has a very large and growing trade deficit in merchandise," said Charles McMillion, chief economist for MBG Information Services, a Washington business forecasting and consulting firm.

Pub Date: 2/21/97

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