These Are the States With Most to Lose in China Trade War

Douglas A. McIntyre

How big is the trade war between China and the United States? The Washington Post reports the current tariffs, along with those the White House has mentioned as being imposed soon, “extend tariffs to all $540 billion in annual Chinese imports.” If the huge dispute becomes even larger, huge sections of the American economy will be affected and, in some cases, deeply harmed.

A look at the export levels to China from each of the 50 states shows some barely have any exposure if tariffs spread as widely as possible — unlike these companies with zero exposure. For others, Chinese exports are critical to overall export numbers.

Among the hardest calculations to make about the effects of exports to China by U.S. companies or geographic locations is that not all products are as easy to identify as corn or steel. A car made in America for export to China may be made with software from the United States, steel from Japan and electronic components from South Korea. On the state level, China may import products with components made in several countries.

Nevertheless, in a prolonged and spreading trade war between China and the United States, North Dakota, with 0.3% of all its exports going to China, the smallest percentage of any state, is better off than New Mexico, which has the most, at over 30% of its exports going there.

Most of the seven states that have 10% of their exports or more that go to China do not have huge state economies. New Mexico ranks first in exports to China at 30%. It ranks 39th among all U.S. states based on gross domestic product. Oregon ranks second among states in terms of the portion of its exports that go to China at just over 21%. Its state economy is 25th among the states in total GDP. In third place in terms of China exports as a percentage of total exports, Alaska comes in at 21%. Its state economy ranks 48th among all states. And these are the states with the worst and best economies.

Here are America’s top states by percentage of their exports that went to China in 2018.

State Share of exports to China Exports to China (billions) State GDP (billions)
New Mexico 30.20% $1.11 $99.43
Oregon 21.40% $4.76 $238.68
Alaska 21.40% $1.01 $54.01
Washington 20.60% $16.00 $563.15
South Carolina 16.30% $5.64 $230.35
Alabama 14.30% $3.05 $221.13
Idaho 10.40% $0.42 $77.00