World Trade Month kicked off Wednesday with a reminder of the impact that international trade has on the Florida economy.
A record $124.7 billion worth of products moved through South Florida airports and seaports in 2012. Trade between the Miami Customs District, which stretches from Palm Beach County to Key West, and 30 countries reached the $1 billion level, said Ken Roberts, president of WorldCity, a Coral Gables media company that analyzes trade data.
WorldCity presented its annual analysis of Miami trade numbers at a luncheon at the Coral Gables Hyatt Regency.
It was the first in a series of international events ranging from trade missions to the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Chile to tours of Miami International Airport’s cargo operations and exporting seminars that will mark the month. On Thursday, for example, the Africa Trade Development Center is sponsoring a seminar at the Miami Free Zone on doing business in Africa.
Gov. Rick Scott also has declared May as Florida World Trade month. Last year Florida-origin exports — those that are made in the state, not just passed through airports and seaports — reached $66.4 billion.
“International business makes up 18 percent of Florida’s economy,” said Frank Ryll, director of global outreach for the Florida Chamber’s International Business Council.
International firms employ 223,500 Floridians — at salaries that pay 30 percent more than the state average, said Ryll.
Despite the Miami district’s record-breaking performance, other areas of the country are nipping at its heels. The Houston district, which did $274.3 billion worth of trade with the world last year, is “increasingly putting pressure on Miami as the gateway for trade with Latin America,’’ said Roberts.
This year’s World Trade Month began as President Barack Obama prepared to leave for Mexico. Although security issues and drug trafficking problems are expected to be among the topics of discussion, the visit between Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is intended to focus on economic ties between the two countries.
“The Mexican economic relationship is the third most robust relationship we have in the United States,’’ said Eric Farnsworth, who heads the Washington office of the Council of the Americas.
Canada and China are currently the top two U.S. trading partners.
Roberts pointed out that Laredo, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border does almost as much trade with Mexico as Miami does with the world. “The trucks are non-stop there,’’ he said.
What will make a successful meeting between the two presidents, said Farnsworth, who spoke at the WorldCity lunch, is coming up with a process to keep the momentum going between Mexico and the United States.
He said that could take the form of annual cabinet-level meetings between the two neighbors.
In recent years, China has overshadowed Mexico as a U.S. trading and production partner.
But as the cost of labor in China rises, more industries are looking at Mexico as a location to produce for the U.S. market.