Forest Products

Author: Vincent Honnold
International Trade Analyst

Change in 2015 from 2014:

  To view changing data, mouseover the graphic below.
  • U.S. total exports: Decreased by $2.1 billion (5 percent) to $39.1 billion
  • U.S. general imports: Increased by $0.2 billion (0.4 percent) to $42.3 billion

In 2015, U.S. general imports of forest products continued the steady growth experienced in recent years, albeit at a slower rate than in the previous four years. The continued expansion of the U.S. economy, in particular the housing sector, increased the import demand for many of the product groups included within the forest products sector. By contrast, U.S. total exports declined in 2015, in large part due to weaker construction activity in China and increased substitution of electronic documents for printed publications.

By virtue of geographic proximity and a large forest products industry, Canada has traditionally been the United States’ largest trading partner in forest products. In 2015, Canada accounted for 25 percent of the value of U.S. domestic exports of forest products and 43 percent of the value of U.S. general imports of these goods (table FP.1). China is the United States’ second-largest trading partner in forest products, accounting for 17 percent of U.S. domestic exports and 22 percent of U.S. general imports in 2015. Other major trading partners of the United States in forest products include Mexico, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Japan.

Table FP.1: Forest products: U.S. exports and general imports, by selected trading partners, 2011–15

 
Million $
 
Item 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Absolute change, 
2014–15
Percent
change, 
2014–15
U.S. exports of domestic merchandise:              
    Canada 10,270 10,264 10,299 10,100 9,447 -653 -6.5
    China 6,725 6,214 6,783 6,931 6,362 -569 -8.2
    Mexico 5,075 5,237 5,392 5,465 5,519 54 1.0
    Brazil 474 415 385 376 348 -28 -7.6
    United Kingdom 1,280 1,455 1,514 1,675 1,821 146 8.7
    Japan 2,212 2,155 2,216 2,139 1,962 -177 -8.3
    Germany 795 784 737 715 630 -86 -12.0
    South Korea 959 844 854 879 812 -68 -7.7
    Chile 226 233 237 219 225 6 2.9
    Indonesia 264 248 296 378 368 -10 -2.8
    All other 11,037 10,479 10,497 10,641 9,978 -663 -6.2
        Total domestic exports 39,317 38,328 39,209 39,519 37,471 -2,048 -5.2
Foreign exports 1,532 1,504 1,616 1,640 1,587 -53 -3.2
Total U.S. exports (domestic and foreign) 40,849 39,832 40,826 41,159 39,058 -2,101 -5.1
U.S. general imports:              
    Canada 16,521 16,464 18,088 18,939 18,059 -880 -4.6
    China 7,344 8,029 8,275 8,834 9,472 638 7.2
    Mexico 1,491 1,525 1,652 1,814 1,950 135 7.5
    Brazil 1,781 1,805 2,161 2,166 2,207 40 1.9
    United Kingdom 546 552 556 623 621 -2 -0.3
    Japan 511 525 468 453 460 7 1.6
    Germany 1,149 1,160 1,113 1,082 1,140 58 5.3
    South Korea 523 516 540 616 578 -38 -6.1
    Chile 624 618 764 824 893 70 8.5
    Indonesia 544 603 651 768 750 -18 -2.3
    All other 5,239 5,275 5,718 5,987 6,161 174 2.9
        Total general imports 36,274 37,071 39,985 42,105 42,290 185 0.4

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2011–15 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2015 (accessed February 10, 2016).
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).

 

U.S. Exports1

The value of U.S. domestic exports of forest products declined by 5 percent between 2014 and 2015, from $39.5 billion to $37.5 billion. Much of this decline was accounted for by decreases in U.S. exports of printed matter, lumber, and logs and rough wood products (table FP.2). Digitalization is negatively affecting global demand for hard-copy newspapers, magazines, books, and other types of printed matter as consumers increasingly use personal computers and mobile devices to access and read text.2 Most of the decline in U.S. exports of lumber and logs and rough wood products was accounted for by decreases in U.S. exports of these products to China. During 2015, the economic slowdown in China led to reduced activity in its construction sector, causing a decline in the demand and prices for U.S. exports of lumber and logs and rough wood products to this market.3

Table FP.2: Forest products: Leading changes in U.S. exports and imports, 2011–15

 
Million $
 
Item 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Absolute change, 
2014–15
Percent
change, 
2014–15
U.S. domestic exports:              
    Increases:              
        Paper boxes and bags (FP010) 1,749 1,758 1,840 1,863 1,901 38 2.0
    Decreases:              
        Lumber (FP002) 2,615 2,685 3,133 3,610 3,216 -393 -10.9
        Printed matter (FP016) 5,370 5,312 5,091 4,717 4,327 -390 -8.3
        Logs and rough wood products (FP001) 2,635 2,554 3,117 3,390 3,093 -296 -8.7
    All other 26,948 26,019 26,028 25,940 24,933 -1,006 -3.9
        Total 39,317 38,328 39,209 39,519 37,471 -2,048 -5.2
U.S. general imports:              
    Increases:              
        Wood veneer and wood panels (FP004) 3,267 3,939 4,589 4,806 5,219 413 8.6
        Printed matter (FP016) 4,183 4,186 4,199 4,241 4,436 195 4.6
    Decreases:              
        Wood pulp and recovered paper (FP009) 4,029 3,369 3,635 3,604 3,302 -302 -8.4
        Lumber (FP002) 3,367 3,961 5,036 5,730 5,445 -285 -5.0
    All other 21,428 21,616 22,526 23,724 23,888 164 0.7
        Total 36,274 37,071 39,985 42,105 42,290 185 0.4

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2011–15 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2015 (accessed February 10, 2016).
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.

 

U.S. Imports

U.S. general imports of forest products rose slightly between 2014 and 2015, from $42.1 billion to $42.3 billion. U.S. imports of wood veneer and wood panels accounted for much of this increase. Demand for these products was driven by increased activity in the residential construction market and the market for home repair and remodeling. In 2015, the United States continued its steady recovery from the housing collapse in 2008 and 2009, with new privately owned housing unit starts increasing by 11 percent over housing starts in 2014. Housing starts in 2015 were at their highest level since 2007.4

U.S. general imports of wood pulp and recovered (recycled) paper, one of the product groups included within the forest products sector, declined by 8.4 percent between 2014 and 2015, from $3.6 billion to $3.3 billion. Much of this decrease was accounted for by a decline in both the volume and the average unit value of chemical pulp, the intermediate product used in the production of paper. In 2015, U.S. production of paper fell 1 percent from the 2014 level as demand for printing and writing papers continued to be negatively affected by the increased use of the Internet and electronic devices.5 U.S. general imports of forest products from Canada declined by $880 million between 2014 and 2015, primarily because of decreases in the value of imports of lumber, wood pulp and recovered paper, newsprint, and printing and writing papers. U.S. general imports of forest products from China rose by $638 million between 2014 and 2015, primarily because of increases in the value of imports of miscellaneous articles of wood, paper boxes and bags, miscellaneous paper products, and printed matter

 

 

1 As appropriate, this section will address total exports, domestic exports, and re-exports.
2 Stora Enso, Progress Book, 2016, 50.
3 Canfor Corporation, “Management's Discussion and Analysis 2015,” 2016, 5; Weyerhaeuser, “Form 10-K,” February 17, 2016, 8, 9, 37. Between 2014 and 2015, U.S. exports of forest products to Canada declined, on a dollar basis, more than those to any other country. Sluggish economic growth in Canada in 2015 (about half the rate of growth experienced in 2014) depressed demand for forest products from the United States. Statistics Canada, “Gross Domestic Product, Income and Expenditure,” March 1, 2016.
4 U.S. Census, New Residential Construction (accessed April 6, 2016).
5 RISI, “US Paper, Board Production Falls Another 1%,” February 16, 2016.