According to the U.S. Census Bureau, international exports play a large roll in the Montana economy with more than $1.6 billion in Montana goods being bought by other countries in 2017.
“Export is critically important bringing additional dollars into our economy,” said Casey Lozar with the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development. “It allows us to be resilient as our domestic economy has its ups and downs.”
Montana’s largest international importer of commodities is Canada with $685 million exported to the country last year.
“In fact, a little over 40 percent of Montana’s exports go to them,” said Lozar. “Compared to South Korea, our second largest trading partner, it’s more than twice.”
Mexico ranks sixth with $42 million in goods bought last year.
On Monday, President Donald Trump announced United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to replace North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Lozar said there is still a lot to learn about the new trade agreement, but his office will follow USMCA closely.
“As any trade agreements are made, in particular USMCA, we look at wheat classification,” said Lozar.
Under NAFTA, wheat raised in Montana is automatically downgraded to the lowest quality, meaning it can only be used for animal consumption.
“Montana has always been reliant on agricultural industry,” said Lozar. “Wheat and cattle are absolutely critical to the state’s economy.”
Jay Bodner, executive vice president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, said he expects a bump in exports because of the new agreement and growing export opportunities for the state is great for Montana.
“As a whole, we have seen our export markets to both of those countries increase significantly,” said Bonder. “Last year they had a significant export market for U.S. beef. As our markets increase then we’re going to have more dollars coming back for Montana producers.”
Montana was recently awarded $325,000 through a State Trade Expansion Program grant to help local businesses expand to international markets.
The grant will be used to help Montana businesses to exhibit at international trade shows, translate promotional materials into foreign languages, and participate in international business matchmaking activities facilitated by the U.S. Commercial Service.
-Reported by John Riley