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32 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE TOP 100 IMPORTERS AND EXPORTERS 2015 JUNE 1.2015 By Reynolds Hutchins S L U G G I S H D E M A N D A N D u n f avora ble exchange rates are driving down U.S. containerized exports to Africa and hav- ing the reverse effect on U.S. imports from the continent. U.S. exports to Africa tumbled 8 per- cent year-over-year in 2014, according to data from PIERS, a sister product of The Journal of Commerce within IHS Mari- time & Trade. Of the top three commodities exported to Africa, low-value cargo, such as plastics and rubber materials and used vehicles, plunged in 2014, while high-paying cargo, such as meats, saw a significant increase. According to PIERS, African imports of used vehicles from the U.S. in 2014 plummeted 28 percent year-over-year and imports of U.S. plastics declined 16 per- cent. African nations, meanwhile, actually imported about 24 percent more meat from the U.S. last year than they did in 2013. The flow of goods from Africa to Amer- ica, however, grew significantly. Each of the top three imported commodities from Africa increased in 2014. Foodstuffs from Africa jumped 19 percent year-over-year, semifinished and finished metals were up 16 percent, and textile and apparel imports edged up 3 percent. The downturn in U.S. exports comes after three consecutive years of growth. It's a change due in large part to the strength- ening U.S. dollar, the global downturn in oil and commodity prices — even the now dis- sipating Ebola crisis, JOC economist Mario Moreno said. The g reenback in 2014 returned to its most potent position since before the Great Recession, according to the U.S. Dol- lar Index. By December, the dollar had hit its highest levels since 2007, effectively driving down the cost of importing goods while driving up the cost of exporting U.S. goods abroad. The exchange rate's trajectory isn't expected to change soon. "The U.S. dollar continues to gain ground against the cur - rencies of several developing economies, including those in Africa," Moreno said. In the first quarter of 2015, the dol- lar gained 7 percent in value, on average, over the currencies in sub-Saharan Africa, quarter-to-quarter, Moreno reported. And he estimates another 5 percent gain in the second quarter. The slowing economic activity in sub- Saharan Africa will also hit U.S. exports, Moreno said. "Economic activity in the sub-Saharan region is expected slow its pace in 2015 to 3.9 percent from 4.4 percent in 2014 in light of markedly lower global oil and commodity prices, and ongoing Ebola epidemic," he said. The International Monetary Fund main- tains that sub-Saharan Africa will support one of the fastest-growing economies in the world in 2015, second only to the developing and emerging corners of Asia. That growth, however, won't be as significant as it once was, the IMF reported in its 2015 economic outlook for the region. "Further dollar appreciation, reflecting variations in growth rates and expected monetary policies across major economies, would make imports more expensive in the region, lower investment and growth, and fuel inflationary pressures," the report said. JOC Contact Reynolds Hutchins at and follow him on Twitter: @Hutchins_JOC. Out of Africa The strengthening dollar takes a toll on US exports to the Dark Continent, but imports jump The downturn in U.S. exports comes after three consecutive years of growth.

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