Arkansas exports surged again in 2018, with $6.5 billion in trade that spanned 170 countries and reflected 12% growth since 2008, according to a report released Thursday by World Trade Center Arkansas.
The state's top two customers, Canada and Mexico, respectively, remained strong compared to previous years, the report said.
More: See the full report.
"Arkansas is one of the few states that consistently exports more than what it imports from its NAFTA partners in recent years," Melvin Torres, the center's director of Western Hemisphere trade, said. "Arkansas' effective partnership with both countries has permitted this symbiotic and successful relationship."
Exports to Canada amounted to $1.2 billion, while Mexico exports totaled $870 million. Those two amount to more than 32% of the state's total exports.
Arkansas exports to Saudi Arabia also grew by more than 400%, thanks to a missile contract between the Middle Eastern country and Lockheed Martin's facility in Camden. The country became the state's third-largest customer, with $397 million in trade in 2018.
"The growth in a relatively untapped market reflects the diversity of Arkansas' economy," Torres said.
France, which received about $326 million in exported goods, and China, with $307 million, were the fourth and fifth largest customers.
Other findings included that:
Arkansas' trade-related jobs grew six times faster than total employment and paid up to 18% more than similar jobs at non-exporting firms.
26% of all jobs in Arkansas were supported by trade in 2018.
The state's largest export industries were aerospace, defense and agriculture.
Small businesses accounted for about 80% of the state’s exporters.
Roxane Gomez, a trade specialist at the center, helped Torres compile the report.