The U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) announced recently new export data that shows North Carolina merchandise exports increased 5 percent in the first half of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011, growing from $13.4 billion to $14 billion. “This is great news for our state as North Carolina continues to thrive as a global economic leader,” said Gov. Bev Perdue. “Nearly 350,000 jobs are supported by exports and trade with hundreds of small- and medium-sized companies in the state conducting business internationally.” According to the ITA, North Carolina’s merchandise export sales for the first half of 2012 outpaced the 2011 figures for the same period in many top destinations, including Saudi Arabia (up 60 percent), Brazil (37 percent), Mexico (20 percent), Canada (15 percent), and Belgium (14 percent). Key merchandise export categories include chemicals, machinery manufactures, transportation equipment, computer and electronic products, and textiles. The International Trade Division of the N.C. Department of Commerce works with North Carolina companies to enter worldwide markets and develop export opportunities.