International trade through South Florida was up more than 10 percent during the first nine months of the year, putting the Miami Customs District in position to finish among the nation’s Top 10 Customs districts for the first time.
The Miami Customs District, which includes airports and seaports from Palm Beach County to Key West, is expected to edge out the San Francisco district in the No. 10 spot. The value of imports and exports shipped via the Miami district totaled $102.6 billion through Oct. 1, a 10.17 percent increase from last October, according to an analysis released Tuesday by WorldCity, a Coral Gables-based media company that focuses on Miami’s role in the international economy.
“Miami is coming out of the economic slowdown in better shape than it entered,’’ said Ken Roberts, president of WorldCity. “For the first time, Miami will almost certainly finish the year as the nation’s No. 10-ranked Customs district. It has ranked as low as No. 14.’’
Trade through the Miami district is currently running at record levels. Roberts said total trade is expected to climb to $118 billion to $120 billion by year’s end, shattering the $112.8 billion record set in 2011.
Once again, Brazil will finish as the Miami district’s top trading partner. During the first nine months of the year, total trade with Brazil climbed to $13.7 billion — $1.1 billion more than the previous year. Trade with Colombia and Switzerland also increased, which will allow them to retain their rankings as South Florida’s second and third most important trading partners.
Miami International Airport is the nation’s top gateway for imported Colombian gold, which has pushed up the value of Colombian exports to South Florida. Switzerland owes most of its No. 3 ranking to the fact that is a big buyer of gold and scrap precious metal exported through the Miami district.
“Somewhat ironically, Miami has been able to capitalize on the economic weakness globally, becoming the nation’s top importer and exporter of gold, as investors have sought the security it offers. Mexico, Colombia and now Bolivia have become large suppliers of gold,’’ Roberts said.
Costa Rica moved past Venezuela and China to rank as South Florida’s fourth most important trading partner through the first nine months of 2012.
South Florida’s trade with Venezuela fell by $72.3 million to $5.5 billion through Oct. 1.
Other countries that saw their trade with South Florida decline during the first nine months of 2012 include the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles, Honduras, Paraguay, Japan, Sweden, Germany, Spain and Guatemala.
Earlier this week, the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean forecast that regional economies, which are the bread-and-butter trading partners for South Florida, are expected to grow 3.8 percent in 2013.
But it remains to be seen whether South Florida will continue its record trade growth next year.
“We have a lot of economic pressure around the world we’ll have to keep our eyes on,’’ said Dan Fisher, TD Bank’s director for North America, global trade finance. “We see a big slowdown in China.’’
The economy of China — marketplace to the world — will still grow by a very respectable 7.6 percent, he said, but that’s slow compared to the 9-11 percent growth of recent years.
Among other factors that will impact trade are: modest growth in the United States, how the U.S. resolves its fiscal cliff dilemma and continuing financial problems in Europe.
But Richard Biter, an assistant secretary with the Florida Department of Transportation, said, “We are really optimistic within Florida DOT.’’
Increased investment in transportation and port infrastructure, he said, translates into more jobs for Floridians.
Biter, who spoke at the WorldCity forecasting event, said DOT is working on a Florida Freight Plan that will be ready for the governor and state legislature by July 1. DOT is analyzing freight infrastructure within each Florida county and how it connects with the state economy so it can better prioritize state investments and market the importance of the trade and cargo industry.
“We’re letting people know that seeing trucks on a road is not a bad thing,’’ he said.