Growth in Minnesota's exports stalled in 2013 for the first time since the recession.

Minnesota companies exported $20.7 billion worth of manufactured, mining and agricultural products last year, according to figures released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Declining sales in Canada, China, Japan and South Korea offset growth in Mexico, Germany, Belgium and the Philippines as total exports fell just short of the $20.8 billion posted in 2012.

"Exports are a vital part of the state's economy, with more than 8,600 businesses in Minnesota exporting goods and services," Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben said in a statement. "With new trade offices opening in South Korea, Brazil and Germany, the state is positioned to continue building export sales around the world and attracting more foreign direct investment."

Minnesota, with the 17th-largest state economy in the United States, ranked 20th among states for export sales in 2013, matching its position in the previous year.

The state's largest market continues to be Canada, where Minnesota companies did $5.8 billion in sales. But exports to Canada fell 8 percent in 2013.

Sales fell in several key Asian markets, with the most dramatic declines in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Exports to China, the state's second-largest market, fell 1 percent to $2.5 billion.

"I'm certainly monitoring that, but I still feel that that's a healthy number for us," said Kathleen Motzenbecker, director of the Minnesota Trade Office.

Mexico, which is among the state's fastest-growing major markets, was a bright spot. Led by big gains in machinery, electrical machinery and food byproducts, exports to Mexico have grown 71 percent since the country broke into the state's top five markets in 2008.

Exports to Mexico, Minnesota's third-largest market, grew 14 percent in 2013 to $1.5 billion.

Machinery was the state's top export product in 2013, with sales reaching $4 billion, down 1 percent.

Other top 10 exports were optics and medical instruments, electrical machinery, vehicles, plastic, food byproducts, aircraft and spacecraft, liquids, meat, and iron and steel products.

A surge in demand for aircraft and spacecraft products in the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia contributed to 32 percent growth in that sector. Liquids like denatured alcohol climbed 71 percent on strong sales growth to Canada.