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Forest Products

Author: Karen Taylor
International Trade Analyst

Change in 2014 from 2013:

  To view changing data, mouseover the graphic below.
  • U.S. total exports: Increased by $445 million (1 percent) to $41.3 billion
  • U.S. general imports: Increased by $2.1 billion (5 percent) to $42.1 billion

Both U.S. total exports and general imports of forest products increased during 2013–14, although the increase in imports outstripped that of exports. Imports rose each year during 2010–14 as a steadily recovering U.S. housing market fueled the U.S. demand for construction products such as lumber, wood panels, and moldings. The increase in exports was driven by rising shipments to China and the United Kingdom, primarily because of the expanding residential construction sectors in both countries.1

Canada was consistently the United States’ leading trading partner because of Canada’s abundant forest resources and its proximity to the United States. In 2014, Canada accounted for 25 percent of U.S. domestic exports and 45 percent of U.S. imports (table FP.1). China is the United States’ second-largest trading partner for these products, accounting for 18 percent of U.S. forest product exports and 21 percent of imports. Other major export markets are Mexico, Japan, and the United Kingdom, and other major import suppliers include Brazil, Mexico, and Germany.

Table FP.1: Forest products: U.S. exports and general imports, by selected trading partners, 2010–14
 
Million $
 
           
Absolute change,
Percent change,
Item
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2013-14
2013-14
U.S. exports of domestic exports merchandise:              
Canada 10,184 10,270 10,264 10,299 10,088 -211 -2
China 5,059 6,725 6,214 6,788 6,952 163 2.4
Mexico 4,893 5,075 5,237 5,392 5,466 74 1.4
Japan 1,994 2,212 2,155 2,216 2,140 -76 -3.4
Brazil 444 474 415 385 377 -8 -2
United Kingdom 1,216 1,280 1,456 1,514 1,675 161 10.7
Germany 846 795 784 737 718 -19 -2.6
South Korea 938 959 844 854 879 25 3
Indonesia 274 264 248 296 378 82 27.7
Italy 923 928 765 800 711 -89 -11.1
All other 9,662 10,335 9,947 9,938 10,246 309 3.1
Total domestic exports 36,433 39,317 38,328 39,218 39,631 413 1.1
Re-exports 1,266 1,532 1,504 1,617 1,649 32 2
Total U.S. exports (domestic exports and re-exports) 37,699 40,849 39,832 40,835 41,280 445 1.1
U.S. general imports:              
Canada 16,545 16,521 16,464 18,088 18,942 854 4.7
China 7,131 7,344 8,029 8,288 8,818 530 6.4
Mexico 1,369 1,491 1,525 1,652 1,815 163 9.9
Japan 550 511 525 468 452 -15 -3.3
Brazil 1,807 1,781 1,805 2,161 2,166 5 0.3
United Kingdom 518 546 552 556 622 67 12
Germany 1,130 1,149 1,160 1,113 1,083 -30 -2.7
South Korea 493 523 516 540 617 78 14.4
Indonesia 554 544 603 650 767 116 17.9
Italy 319 350 355 366 394 28 7.7
All other 5,358 5,514 5,538 6,115 6,415 300 4.9
Total general imports 35,775 36,274 37,071 39,996 42,092 2,096 5.2
Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2010–14 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2014 (accessed April 21, 2015).
Note: Import values are based on Customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data. The trading partners shown are those with the largest total U.S. trade (U.S. general imports plus U.S. domestic exports) in these products in the current year. Re-exports (also called foreign exports) are further defined in the “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) and in the ‘Trade Metrics” discussion.

U.S. Exports2

U.S. domestic exports grew by 1 percent during 2013–14, up from $39.2 billion to $39.6 billion. Most of the export increase was because of rising exports of lumber, logs and rough wood products, and paperboard (table FP.2). Lumber exports increased 15 percent ($481 million) to $3.6 billion, and log exports increased 8 percent ($262 million) to $3.4 billion. Exports to China accounted for most of the increase in the exports of lumber, logs, and rough wood products.3 Rising lumber and log exports to China were driven by its residential housing starts and residential construction. Although Chinese lumber consumption fell slightly in 2014 compared to 2013 because of a domestic economic slowdown, Chinese log demand was still strong enough to help raise 2014 prices for the type of logs exported to China.4

Table FP.2: Forest products: Leading changes in U.S. domestic exports and general imports, 2010–14
 
Million $
 
           
Absolute change,
Percent change,
Item
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2013-14
2013-14
U.S. re-exports:              
Increases:              
FP002 Lumber 79 88 62 70 76 6 8.6
FP001 Logs and rough wood products 21 33 18 16 15 -1 -5.9
FP011A Paperboard 42 45 40 84 92 8 9.6
FP011 Industrial papers and paperboards 112 125 114 183 193 10 5.6
FP015 Miscellaneous paper products 137 143 148 150 151 1 0.5
FP009 Wood pulp and recovered paper 221 384 359 306 279 -28 -9
FP005 Wooden containers 15 19 19 24 22 -1 -6.1
FP010 Paper boxes and bags 38 46 55 60 61 1 2.4
FP003 Moldings, millwork, and joinery 61 53 42 44 43 -1 -1.9
FP007 Miscellaneous articles of wood 26 31 32 38 34 -4 -9.9
FP008 Cork and rattan 13 14 13 13 11 -1 -11.8
FP011C Industrial paper 17 25 23 37 41 4 9.6
FP006 Tools and tool handles of wood 6 7 15 7 6 -1 -13.1
Decreases:              
FP016 Printed matter 358 377 388 489 510 21 4.3
FP013 Printing and writing papers 42 74 103 79 99 21 26.2
FP012 Newsprint 11 7 3 16 22 5 30.5
FP014 Certain specialty papers 45 42 38 37 41 4 10.8
FP004 Wood veneer and wood panels 83 90 94 84 85 (a) 0.1
FP011B Tissue and tissue products 53 55 51 62 60 -1 -2.4
Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2010–14 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2014 (accessed March 27, 2015).
Note: Import values are based on Customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data.

Paperboard exports increased 4 percent ($246 million) to $6.9 billion; Canada and Mexico were the major export markets.5 Paperboard is used in industrial packaging, and demand is largely driven by output in the manufacturing sector. Cardboard box manufacturers are estimated to account for 72 percent of paperboard sales. Demand for cardboard boxes is driven by the manufacturing, agriculture, foodservice, and retail sectors, which use cardboard boxes to transport their goods.6 Demand growth was fueled by increases in industrial output in the major U.S. paperboard markets: manufacturing production in Mexico rose by 3 percent during 2013 and 6 percent during 2014, while Canadian industrial production grew by 3 percent during 2013 and 2014.7

Exports of printed matter, printing and writing paper, and newsprint declined: printed matter by 6 percent ($305 million), printing and writing papers by 16 percent ($227 million), and newsprint by 30 percent ($132 million). The shift from printed materials to electronic media such as e-readers and electronic data transmission has reduced the use of traditional print media.8

U.S. Imports

U.S. imports in this sector rose by $2.1 billion to $42.1 billion, an increase of 5 percent. Lumber and industrial papers and paperboard showed the largest increases, driven respectively by demand for residential housing and manufactured product output. Lumber imports, mostly from Canada, grew the most during 2013–14, rising by 14 percent ($694 million) to $5.7 billion. These imports were boosted by the growth in U.S. residential construction. U.S. residential housing starts increased 9 percent from 2013 to 2014, rising from 925,000 to one million—the largest number of housing starts since 2007.9 The growth in U.S. residential construction also drove higher import demand for other construction-related forest products such as moldings, millwork, and joinery, up by 8 percent ($216 million), and for wood veneer and wood panels, up by 4 percent ($194 million).

Industrial paper and paperboard imports increased 10 percent ($559 million) during 2013–14 to $6.1 billion. A large share of the products in the industrial paper group, such as paperboard, is used in packaging, and demand is largely driven by output in the manufacturing sector. Industrial production in the U.S. manufacturing sector increased by 6 percent in 2014.10 The largest supplier of paperboard is Canada, which accounted for 51 percent of paperboard imports and 41 percent of the increase in 2014.11

Canada, China, and Mexico supplied most of the growth in imports. Most of the import growth from Canada was accounted for by lumber, from China by wood veneers and wood panels, and from Mexico by industrial papers and paperboard.12


1 Weyerhaeuser, “Form 10-K,” February 13, 2015, 33; Government of the UK, Department for Communities and Local Government, “House Building: December Quarter 2014, England,” February 19, 2015, 1.1.
2 As appropriate, this section will address total exports, domestic exports, and re-exports.
3 USITC DataWeb/USDOC (for commodity groups FP002 and FP001; accessed March 27, 2015).
4 Canfor Corporation, “2014 Management’s Discussion and Analysis,” 2015, 4; Weyerhaeuser, “Form 10-K,” February 13, 2015, 33.
5 USITC DataWeb/USDOC (for commodity group FP011A; accessed March 27, 2015).
6 IBISWorld, Paperboard Mills in the US, November 2014, 7.
7 Trading Economics, “Mexico Manufacturing Production” and “Canada Industrial Production” (accessed March 10, 2015). Information for Canada and Mexico are not directly comparable, as Canadian industrial production includes production in the mining and utilities economic sectors in addition to the manufacturing sector.
8 Packaging Corporation of America, “Form 10-K,” February 27, 2015, 7.
9 USDOC, Census, New Privately Owned Housing Units Started (accessed March 11, 2015).
10 Federal Reserve, “Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization,” February 18, 2015.
11 USITC DataWeb/USDOC (for commodity group FP011A; accessed March 27, 2015).
12 USITC DataWeb/USDOC (for commodity groups FP002, FP004, and FP011; accessed March 27, 2015).