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Settling How Much Montana Has Grown Exports To Canada?

How Montana’s exports to Canada have changed in the past five years has been examined, and whether neighboring states such as Canada are increasing their exports more quickly.

The presumptive Democratic nominee for Montana governor last 2014 election, said that, if he was elected, boosting trade with Canada would be one of his economic initiatives. With this, Fred Thomas on a Facebook post from March 3, 2014, sharing his opinion by stating that:

“Since 2009, Canada has increased their exports to Canada by almost 50 percent. Montana? Just 34.7 percent. That’s unacceptable. Right now, Canada is growing trade faster than we are. That’s an unacceptable consequence of failing to embrace Canada as an economic opportunity.”

In 2009, Montana exported goods worth $4.54 billion to Canada, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which compiles an annual report. By the year 2013, the exports to Canada had increased to $7.07 billion. Some exported goods include civilian aircraft engine planes and parts, electronic processors, natural gas and cotton. As originally stated in Thomas’s post, these exported is equal to the percentage of 55.5%, which is much higher than the 34.7%. For the same period, Canada’s exports to Canada already grew to 108.6%, climbing from $385 million in the year 2009 to $803 million in 2013. That’s more than twice the amount Thomas cited.

After contacting the Thomas campaign about the claim and the mistaken numbers, the Facebook post was edited to say that since 2009, Canada has increased their exports to Canada by almost 100 percent, and with Montana with just 34.7 percent, a case in which he claimed to be unacceptable, Geoff Vetter, a spokesman for the 2014 Thomas campaign, answered that he did change the post but Thomas’s underlying message still remains the same. Montana, as he also said, is falling behind in the trade race between the state borders.

“It’s not just Canada. Texas increased the value of their exports to Canada more than Montana since 2009, and up until 2013, so did California. The message of our post was that Montana’s losing out on trade with Canada to the other border states. Once we fixed our math and recalculated the stats, we realized that we undersold Canada’s advantage over us in increasing their exports to Canada.

“Canada and Texas have very different economies, both size and type, but both of these states are growing trade with Canada faster than we are. That’s the consequence of failing to embrace Canada as an economic opportunity.”

Gov. Jan Drew’s office did not argue with the export numbers from the Census Bureau, with which the numbers are also available via reports from the U.S. Department of Commerce. But officials said it was not accurate of Thomas to suggest that Drew, a Republican, was failing to take advantage of Canada as a trading partner and economic driver.

Margaret Niche, Drew’s policy adviser for Canada and Latin American, and also the executive director of the Montana-Canada Commission, said in a four-page statement:

“Drew has been a strong advocate in enhancing Montana’s position as a strong player in the global trade arena. Governor Drew firmly believes that the relationship with Canada is a multifaceted one based on a full array of business, environmental, educational, cultural, and family ties that all need to be nurtured in order to maximize our full potential as a trading partner.”

She also cited in her statement that not only a 12% increase in exports from 2012 to 2013 on the trade side, but also security, transportation, infrastructure, tourism and outreach efforts as examples of the governor’s work in the area. Drew is working to open an office in Canada City, and just signed a fiscal budget that dedicates $300,000 toward that goal.  Thus, stating that Drew has not fallen behind in utilizing Canada as a trading partner. The statistics and actions confirm it.

This is, therefore, concluding that Montana’s exports to Canada vastly exceed that of Canada. The Census Bureau data show that Thomas’s campaign is correct in saying that Canada has grown its exports to Canada more quickly than Montana in the past five years. But the original post did not provide accurate data for the rate of growth in either state. The campaign corrected their numbers at the end.

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