Hot spots for U.S. metal fabricated exports

The FABRICATOR June 2003
July 10, 2003
By: Kate Bachman

Increased global competition for customers on their home turf has driven U.S. metal fabricators to throw their nets wider to international markets. With this in mind, fabricators should look at the lists of the countries purchasing the most U.S. metal fabricated tools, machinery, products, and partially assembled goods as a road map to export opportunities.

Canada is a virtual U.S. export paradise. It is, by far, the leading importer of U.S. exports in the categories reviewed by The FABRICATOR®staff. In some cases, Canada outspent the second-place export purchaser, Mexico, by 10 to 1.

Some surprising newcomers have been added to the list. Russia, Chile, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, and Bermuda have assumed prominent positions, replacing some old-guard countries that had topped the list in previous years.

Machine Tools, Presses

U.S. exports of machine tools and presses were down from 2001 by 10.6 percent in 2002 and have declined steadily over five years from $463.5 million in 1998 to $342.5 million in 2002, a 26 percent decline.

The largest importer of U.S. goods in this category is Canada, with $93.7 million in U.S. exports, a 32.7 percent rebound from the $70.6 million spent in 2001 (see Figure 1) and near to its 1999 numbers.

Last year's biggest export country, Mexico, came in at a close second at $85.1 million, a 9.3 percent decline from 2001 and a 32.9 percent decline from its 1999 high of $126.8 million.

Third-place China's export purchases showed a 24.8 percent decrease since 2001, but the country's $21.7 million total is double its 1999 numbers.

Noteworthy is that exports to last year's third-place export country, Germany, have shown a 51.3 percent decline from 2001 and a 67 percent decline from 1999. Germany is importing roughly only one-third of the $51.9 million it spent on U.S. exports in 1999.

Stampings of Bodies, Parts

Overall, U.S. exports of stamped bodies and parts increased slightly from 2001 to $1.5 billion in 2002.By a landslide, Canada is the leader with a whopping $1.3 billion, a 4.3 percent increase over its purchases in 2001 (see Figure 2).

Mexico is the second-largest importer, purchasing a 7.5 percent share of the total exports, at $111 million.Although third-place Chile's purchases of $12.9 million are only a fraction of the total, they represent a 156.4 percent change from 2001.

Not surprising, the leading importer of bumper stampings is Canada, at $69.1 million. Germany and France are a distant second and third, at $4.1 million and $1.2 million, respectively.

Steel, Iron Pipeline for Oil or Gas

Overall, exports of steel and iron pipeline increased in the category from $47.3 million in 2001 to $58.1 million in 2002. Making a prominent debut on the top three list, Trinidad and Tobago emerged as the new hot spot in 2002—the largest importer of U.S. goods in this category with $29.5 million in purchases; the difference from its 2001 numbers is a 67,500 percent increase (see Figure 3). Second-place Canada's purchases fell to 32 percent of its 2001 purchase number ($35.4 million) to $11.3 million in 2002.

Also making an appearance on the top three list is third-place Netherlands. The difference from its $2,863 in purchases in 2001 to $2.4 million in 2002 represents an 84,666 percent increase. China and Egypt also showed large percentage increases. China's imports grew from $2,812 to $2.2 million; Egypt's imports grew from $6,679 to $654,625.

Steel, Iron Pipeline for Oil or Gas, 16 in.+ OD

Although the export numbers are relatively small, the fact that the leader is newcomer Croatia, at $1.4 million, may be an indication of that country's entre into the industry. Last year's leader, Canada, purchased $1 million, a 67.7 percent decline from its 2001 numbers, and Mexico's $629,161 purchases increased by 54.5 percent, putting that country in third place.

Stainless Steel Pipes, Tubes, Profiles

Head-and-shoulders leader in the category of stainless steel pipes, tubes, and profiles is Canada, at $38.5 million (see Figure 4). In second place, Mexico's $12.3 million is less than half its $25.7 million total in 2000. Although third-place Turkey's $1.1 million represents only a small share (1.8 percent) of the total, its presence in the top three is significant. The increase from 2001 to 2002 is a 1,338 percent change.

Steel or Iron Columns, Pillars, Posts

Canada and Mexico, in first ($8.5 million) and second place ($7.3 million), respectively, have shown slight declines but still are leaders in purchasing steel or iron columns, pillars, and posts from the U.S. (see Figure 5). Although Mexico's $7.3 million is a substantial number, it is an ocean's span from the $20.6 million in U.S. exports it purchased in 2000. 2001's leader, Trinidad and Tobago, dropped to fourth place, an 80.1 percent decline from 2001 to 2002.

The debutante in 2002 is Israel, with a 6,065 percent increase in export purchases in this category, from $86,000 to $5.3 million.

Welded Angles, Shapes, Sections of Iron or Steel

Overall, the category of welded angles, shapes, and sections has increased steadily from $30 million in 1998 to $47.8 million in 2002, a 59.2 percent increase (see Figure 6).

Hot export climates may be in surprising places. Russia surged ahead from its 23rd position in 2001 to become the new leader in this category, with $8.3 million in U.S. export purchases in 2002. The increase represents a 2,246 percent growth rate.

Last year's leader, Mexico, fell to third place with $4.9 million in export purchases behind second-place Taiwan, with $5.3 million.

Aluminum Plate, Rod, Profiles, Tubes

The top three leaders in 2002 in importing aluminum plate, rod, profiles, and tubes are the same as in 2001—Canada, Mexico, and the U.K.—although Mexico and the U.K. have traded positions (see Figure 7). Canada leads with $38.9 million, a 22.1 percent increase from 2001. Mexico and the U.K. both showed declines, purchasing $5.4 million and $5.3 million in U.S. exports, respectively.

Showing large increases from 2001 to 2002 are fourth-place United Arab Emirates, with a $1.6 million increase, which is a 77.9 percent change; Taiwan, with a $2.1 million increase, which is a 446.7 percent change; and Israel, with a $1.5 million increase, which is a 181.2 percent change.

Aluminum Doors, Windows, Frames, Thresholds for Doors

Once again, Canada leads in imports of aluminum doors and windows, importing $21.6 million in 2002, up slightly from the previous year and nearly half of the $47.6 million total in this category. Bermuda increased its purchase of U.S. exports by 41.9 percent to $3.7 million in 2002. Mexico fell to third place at $2.9 million.

Aluminum Sheet Metal Roofing, Siding, and Flooring

Canada also leads in this category of aluminum sheet roofing, siding, and flooring, with $10.3 million in U.S. export purchases. Korea follows with $7.2 million, and China is in third with $2.1 million.

Mufflers, Exhaust Pipes for Motor Vehicles

Of the $347.6 million in mufflers and exhaust pipes purchased from the U.S. in 2002, $279.9 million worth was by Canada, about an 80 percent share. Mexico, in second place, purchased $29.3 million, an 18.1 percent decline from the previous year. Belgium purchased almost five times what it purchased in 2001, importing $15.2 million in 2002.

Airplane or Helicopter Parts

In the $11 billion category of airplane and helicopter parts, Japan led with $1.8 billion in export purchases in 2002. The U.K., in second place, purchased $1.4 billion in exports, and France purchased $839.3 million.

Assembled Goods

In terms of completed, assembled metal goods, increases have occurred in road tractors for semitrailers, cruise ships, tractors for agriculture, motorcycles, and tanks and armored vehicles.

The largest increases have occurred in the cruise and cargo ships category, which grew by 150.4 percent from 2001 to 2002 ($74.8 million to $187.4 million). Japan leads in that category, importing $110.7 million in U.S. vessels. Germany follows, with a 33,858 percent increase and a total of $47.5 million.

Another promising area of growth is the category of road tractors for semitrailers, with a 36.6 percent increase since 2001. However, the export sales number, $981.3 million, is only about 60 percent of its $1.6 billion export numbers in 1999. Canada leads with $842.4 million in export purchases, followed by Australia, with $36.3 million, and Mexico, with $36.1 million.

Alternatively, export purchases in the fishing vessels industry took a dive by 58.9 percent, from $17 million in 1998 to $7 million in 2002.

For more information related to export opportunities, visit the U.S. Department of Commerce Web site,

Sources: Data for this article has been compiled from tariff and trade data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Treasury, and the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Associate Editor Eric Lundin can be reached at

Kate Bachman

Kate Bachman

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-381-1302

Published In...



The FABRICATOR is North America's leading magazine for the metal forming and fabricating industry. The magazine delivers the news, technical articles, and case histories that enable fabricators to do their jobs more efficiently. The FABRICATOR has served the industry since 1971.

Preview the Digital Edition

Subscribe to The FABRICATOR

Read more from this issue