Export-reliant local economies have a lot at stake as multiple trade disputes play out between the U.S. and China and Mexico, with nearly a dozen Louisiana parishes positioned to be among those most affected.
Nine parishes in the state—including the Capital Region parishes of Ascension, Iberville and West Baton Rouge—are among the 50 counties in the country whose exports represent the largest share of local GDP, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of county-level data compiled by the Brookings Institution for its “Export Monitor” project.
Measured as a share of gross domestic product, four sparsely populated parishes outside New Orleans are the most export-reliant localities in the country, according to Pew’s analysis. Those parishes—St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James and St. John the Baptist—are home to several giant oil and gas refineries and petrochemical plants, which account for the great majority of their exports. Taken together, exports from those parishes totaled more than $11 billion in 2017, or nearly two-thirds of their combined GDP.
Overall, exports represented 12.1% of U.S. GDP in 2017, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Nearly half of the 3,114 counties and county equivalents in the Brookings dataset (1,533) were at or above that level.
In general, the most export-dependent counties in the U.S. tend to be smaller, less economically diversified, and in the South and Midwest. Of the 50 counties whose exports represent the biggest share of local GDP, 30 are in the South (including 11 in Texas and nine in Louisiana), 17 are in the Midwest, and three are in western states. In fact, only one county in the Northeast—Fulton County, Pennsylvania, headquarters of construction equipment maker JLG Industries—derives as much as 30% of local GDP from exports.