The news will largely be bad when the U.S. Census Bureau releases annual trade statistics on Feb. 5. But there’s room for optimism yet.
For the third consecutive year, South Florida’s trade with the world will be down. That is unprecedented, going back at least two decades and almost certainly many years more. Exports will be down. Imports will be down. The South Florida trade surplus will be down.
On the national level, it will much the same: trade down, exports down, imports down and the deficit up.
While the dollar value of trade does not necessarily correlate cleanly to shipping containers moving through seaports or tonnage handled at airports or seaports — the way airports and seaports commonly measure success — it is how most of us think about trade.
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For example, despite the bad news in dollar-denominated trade that is coming, PortMiami and Port Everglades did something in the most recent fiscal year not done previously: For the first time, both Miami-Dade and Broward’s ports topped 1 million TEUs — 20-foot equivalent units, once the size of containers before they became larger.
The value of trade can go down while the volume or weight rises if the prices are dropping — oil, copper, soybeans and the like.
So, from that view, things are going pretty well.
But back to trade from a dollar perspective, where it would seem to be nothing but gloom and doom. Even looking at trade from the perspective of value, there is a positive spin to be had and it is this:
South Florida will almost certainly have gained market share for 13 of its top 15 trade partners when the 2015 numbers are released.
That can often become important when commodity prices and markets improve. When comparing the performance of South Florida’s top 15 trade partners to their overall trade with the United States, only two — China and Costa Rica — have done better nationally than in South Florida.
A quick rundown:
Brazil. Trade with South Florida’s top trade partner was off 17.74 percent through the first 11 months of 2015, according to the most recent Census Bureau data, while the U.S. total is down 18.78 percent. Here, there’s actually little movement. Its economy in both political and economic turmoil, its currency down as much as 40 percent against the dollar, Brazil is hurting. Exports from both South Florida and the United are down more than 25 percent.
Colombia. South Florida trade down 13.43 percent while overall U.S. trade is down 19.26 percent. Impact: South Florida will almost certainly be Colombia’s top gateway for U.S. trade for the first time in six years, replacing Houston.
China. U.S. trade is up 2.17 percent while South Florida trade is down 2.17 percent. Not a great sign, particularly as the opening of the expanded Panama Canal nears, but not surprising given the state of the Chinese economy and since South Florida’s trade with China is actually less balanced than the national average, as hard to imagine as that might be. For every dollar of trade with China, 21 cents is a U.S. export while for every dollar of South Florida trade with China, only seven cents is an export.
Dominican Republic. A bright spot to be sure. South Florida trade is up 5.87 percent while U.S. trade is down 4.64 percent. South Florida will account for one of its highest percentages of Dominican trade in a decade, at about 46 percent.
Chile. South Florida trade off 1.83 percent while U.S. trade off 6.45 percent. South Florida is the top gateway for U.S. trade with Chile, followed by Houston. Houston’s trade with Chile was off 23.78 percent through the first 11 months of 2015.
Honduras. South Florida trade increased 5.55 percent while U.S. trade fell 5.85 percent through November. South Florida fell below 40 percent of all U.S. trade for the first time in 2014; it will likely have topped 44 percent in 2015.
Peru. One of the largest positive gaps here. U.S. trade was off 14.44 percent while South Florida trade was up 9.72 percent. South Florida is the top U.S. gateway, followed by Houston, New York City, New Orleans and Los Angeles. The last three, in particular, are registering steep declines in trade with Peru.
Argentina. Another highly positive gap as U.S. trade was down 12.28 percent while South Florida trade was up 17.81 percent. Impact here is the same as with Colombia: South Florida will likely be Argentina’s top gateway for U.S. trade, replacing Houston for the first time since 2010.
Venezuela. Not much positive spin possible here, of course, but while U.S. trade was down 41.10 percent, largely due to the value of oil and imports from the OPEC nation, South Florida trade was off 33.15 percent.
Costa Rica. As is the case with China, Costa Rica’s trade with South Florida fell more than the U.S. overall, 42.92 percent compared to 36.84 percent. U.S. and South Florida imports of computer chips have fallen by 90 percent, with Intel’s shifting of manufacturing to Malaysia and Vietnam.
France. U.S. trade was down 0.67 percent while South Florida trade increased 7.94 percent.
Guatemala. Similar scenario as with France: U.S. trade was down 1.11 percent while South Florida trade increased 6.13 percent.
Switzerland. U.S. trade off 0.78 percent while South Florida trade is up 53.43 percent. While about a third of the increase is gold exports from South Florida — which rose substantially during the economic downturn — the rest is spread across a variety of exports and imports, including pharmaceutical exports.
Ecuador. South Florida trade was down an unpleasant 21.59 percent through November but the U.S. total was down 29.29 percent to the oil-producing and gasoline-purchasing South American nation.
El Salvador. Another nice “market share” spread for South Florida, with trade increasing 9.64 percent while U.S. total exports and imports rose 1.65 percent through November.
Reach Ken Roberts, president of World City, at kroberts@worldcity web.com. Twitter: @tradenumbers
South Florida compared to U.S. totals
U.S. 1-year change
U.S. 1-year change
Source: WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census data