May 15, 2023 - Business

Houston's global trade ties recover from pandemic

 Illustrated collage of a handshake surrounded by rectangles made from international currency.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Houston led the country in exports in 2022 as its global trade ties continued to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

Driving the news: Houston shipped more than $191.8 billion in goods and commodities abroad last year, according to the Greater Houston Partnership's annual Global Houston report, released Friday.

  • New York ranked second with $120.6 billion in exports and Chicago third with $63.4 billion, according to the GHP's analysis of International Trade Administration data.

Why it matters: Houston's status as an international trade partner is a large driver of the city's economy, which rises and falls with the countries it conducts business with, per the Global Houston report.

Details: The top destinations for Houston's exports — which are primarily chemicals and oil and gas materials — are Brazil, Canada, China, Japan and Mexico.

Of note: Air travel and international air cargo are the two areas where Houston has yet to return to pre-COVID levels.

Houston's top three trading partners:

  • Trade between Houston and Mexico fluctuated over the past decade, dropping to below $15 billion in 2016 and 2020 and increasing to $32.1 billion in 2022.
  • Houston imported $9.9 billion in motor vehicle parts, coffee, tea, spices, vinegar, iron and steel from Mexico last year.
  • Houston-China trade has more than doubled in the last decade, from $13.6 billion in 2013 to $31.9 billion in 2022.
  • Houston's $20 billion in imports include a variety of items, like toys, furniture, plastic products and linens.
South Korea
  • Houston-South Korea trade has almost quadrupled over the past decade, from $6.2 billion in 2013 to $24.6 billion in 2022. It saw a 51% increase in the last year in part due to the jump in the export value of mineral fuel.
  • Houston imports ship equipment and rubber and plastic products from South Korea.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Houston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Houston stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Houston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more