The trade balance between the U.S. and Austria has developed very unevenly. Whereas in 1985 Americans exported $441 million of goods to Austria, they imported $833 million (thus accumulating a trade deficit of $392 million). In 2017, Americans exported $4,264 million worth of goods to Austria, while importing a whopping $11,721 from Austria (accumulating a trade deficit of $7,457 million). The U.S. trade deficit with Austria has been above 7 billion annually since 2014. 70 percent of Austrian exports go to European Union member states. The U.S. is Austria’s fourth largest trading partner after Germany, Switzerland and Italy, and second-largest export market after Germany. The United States’ main export products to Austria are chemicals and pharmaceuticals, machines and motor vehicles as well as manufactured goods.
What are Austrian businesses exporting to the U.S.? The Austrian steel giant VOEST has just finished a new production facility in Galveston, Texas, and is exporting sheet metal, while Schoeller Bleckmann Oilfield produces drilling pipes for the U.S. Together this amounted to $317 million of exports to the U.S. in 2017. Americans love the energy drink Red Bull and bought almost $800 million worth of the iconic non-alcoholic drink. The Steyr Works export almost $900 million worth of Diesel engines to the U.S. for BMW X SUVs built in South Carolina. Americans buy $249 million worth of KTM dirt bikes from Austria, while Austrians only buy $27 million worth of Harley Davidsons. The Salzburg crane builder Palfinger contributed most to the $237 million worth of crane sales to the U.S. The Carinthian arms manufacturer Glock, which produces the primary service weapon of choice for many U.S. law enforcement agencies, exported $295 million worth of guns and ammunition while Austrians only bought $9 million of American products in this category. Austria even sells more aircrafts and aircraft components to the U.S. (worth $290 million) than the U.S. sells to Austria ($225 million). Austrian wines (especially the white wine Grüner Veltliner) are ever more popular with American fine diners.
Austrian businesses like Palfinger and Rosenbauer, Alpla and Grass, are flying under the radar and have built substantial market shares in the U.S. Alpla is a family business with 176 locations in 45 countries (a dozen plants in the U.S. and regional headquarters in Atlanta). They are leaders in the market for packaging systems, particularly plastic containers. Grass produces movement systems for kitchens and bathrooms, with office facilities around the U.S. Its manufacturing facility is located in North Carolina with distribution points located across the U.S. Grass is also known for its workforce training. Rosenbauer is a specialist in the production of fire trucks and fire equipment. Rosenbauer Minnesota, one of Rosenbauer America’s four production sites, is located in Wyoming, Minnesota. The plant specializes in custom vehicles, technically demanding fire service trucks, which are manufactured according to individual customer requirements. Salzburg-based crane manufacturer Palfinger is now one of the leading truck equipment manufacturers offering a comprehensive product portfolio of cranes, hooklifts, cable hoists, forklifts, liftgates, service bodies and platforms. With a number of production facilities in Canada and the U.S., Palfinger employs more than 1,000 people in North America. Palfinger holds the top position in market share in many of its business units. Austrian businesses also have a strong record in “green technologies” with a focus on sustainability.
Sources: Annual trade figures are in https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c4330.html.
On trade groups, see https://diepresse.com/home/wirtschaft/5384928/Red-Bull-Glock-und-KTM-Oesterreichs-Aussenhandel-mit-den-USA#slide-5384928-0.
On Austrian business in the U.S., see http://www.advantageaustria.org/us/Oesterreich-in-den-USA.en.html.
On individual businesses, see https://www.alpla.com/en; https://www.grassusa.com/; http://www.rosenbaueramerica.com/; https://www.palfinger.com/en-US/usa (all these websites accessed May 2/3, 2018).