U.S. construction equipment exports dropped more than 38 percent in 2009 compared to the previous year for a total $12.8 billion worth of machinery shipped to other nations, according to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). Declines of between nearly 30 to 50 percent for major world regions were marked. South and Central America, as well as Asia, were among the regions experiencing the smallest 2009 yearly declines.
The good news is that overall, quarter-to-quarter declines steadily improved, ending with a fourth-quarter 2009 gain of 26 percent over the third quarter, reports the AEM trade group which consolidates U.S. Commerce Department data for off-road equipment with other sources into quarterly export trend reports.
"Exports have literally been a lifeline for the construction equipment industry, which saw U.S. business plummet more than 40 percent last year and unemployment soar to more than double the national average," stated AEM President Dennis Slater. "Global trade has been a significant source of industry expansion in recent years, and many economies are now rebounding faster than the U.S."
Slater provided additional commentary on the need for trade-friendly government policies: "To help boost U.S. exports, it is essential that federal government policies make it easier for American companies to pursue international business, and for international buyers to more easily travel to the United States to examine and buy American products,” he said. “AEM applauds President Obama's recent ‘National Export Initiative’ to promote trade, which includes expanded Export-Import Bank funding for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from 20 percent to 50 percent of budget.” Many smaller companies increasingly rely on exports to keep their businesses operating, said Slater, and AEM has launched a pilot program with Ex-Im Bank to guide companies through the loan-application process and maximize their export opportunities.
"AEM also welcomes the Administration's renewed focus on revamping the U.S. visa-application process,” he said. “International attendance at our trade shows would be much higher if qualified buyers were not subjected to an overly complicated and seemingly arbitrary process. These are established business people, and many just give up and vow to spend their money in other countries.” AEM, said Slater, continues to hear complaints of long waiting times and denial after review. “We have experienced up to a 20-percent refusal rate for our CONEXPO-CON/AGG construction show, and we estimate our recent AG CONNECT Expo agriculture show lost significant international attendance because of visa issues. For example, with one potential Indian delegation of about 80 business people, some 90 percent were denied visas."
Export sales to South America declined 29 percent in 2009 for a total of $2.4 billion compared to 2008. Central America took delivery of $1.3 billion worth of U.S. construction equipment, a 34-percent decrease, and exports to Asia dropped 35 percent in 2009, for a total of $2 billion. Export business to Europe declined 51 percent to $1.5 billion in 2009, and construction machinery exports to Canada dropped 41 percent for a total of $3.7 billion. Africa recorded purchases of $986 million worth of U.S. construction equipment, a drop of 29 percent, while exports to Australia/Oceania decreased 46 percent to $962 million for 2009.
The top buyers of U.S.-made construction machinery for 2009 were: (1) Canada - $3.7 billion, down 41 percent; (2) Mexico - $1 billion, down 28 percent; (3) Australia - $922 million, down 47 percent; (4) Chile - $763 million, down 16 percent; (5) Brazil - $513 million, down 29 percent; (6) China - $487 million, up 15 percent; (7) Colombia - $392 million, down 17 percent; (8) Belgium - 360 million, down 48 percent; (9) South Africa - $353 million, down 49 percent; (10) Peru - $319 million, down 20 percent; (11) Saudi Arabia - $238 million, down 44 percent; (12) Singapore - $214 million, down 48 percent; (13) Russia - $209 million, down 58 percent; (14) India - $181 million, up 55 percent; (15) Venezuela - $165 million, down 57 percent.