It wasn’t the best year for South Florida’s trade with the world, although there were a few bright spots.
South Florida’s trade fell 3.89 percent in 2014 while overall U.S. trade grew 3.14 percent, according to annual trade data released by the U.S. Census Bureau late last week and analyzed by WorldCity
South Florida’s total trade was $115.93 billion, the lowest total since 2011, while U.S. narrowly missed eclipsing the $4 trillion mark, ending at a record $3.97 trillion.
Total South Florida exports were $65.49 billion, down 3.55 percent and the lowest total 2010. Total imports were valued at $50.44 billion, down 4.33 percent and the lowest total since 2011.
South Florida’s trade surplus was $15.05 billion, its lowest total since 2007 and second in the nation to Seattle, which exports large and expensive Boeing jets. South Florida is one of only a handful among the more than 40 U.S. Customs districts and the only one in the nation with one for more than two decades.
South Florida’s trade surplus is largely tied to the export of cell phones, computers and other high-tech goods to Latin America and the Caribbean. South Florida has had the nation’s largest trade surplus most years over the course of the last two decades and has finished second only to Seattle.
South Florida ranked as the nation’s No. 12-ranked Customs district. That is the same ranking as the previous year. In 2012, it ranked No. 10, the only year South Florida has appeared among the nation’s top 10 Customs districts.
The two primary reasons for South Florida’s drop in trade, as regular readers of this column know, is a slacking thirst for gold, which peaked during and shortly after the global economic crisis, and a decision by Intel to move computer processor manufacturing from Costa Rica to Malaysia.
Gold, South Florida’s leading export in 2012, most of it bound for Switzerland, fell from a value of $7.93 billion that year to $3.29 billion in 2014, still strong enough to rank as the fourth most important export. But that’s a 58.47 percent decline — and more than half of the value that South Florida exports have fallen since 2014.
The value of gold imports into South Florida — much coming from Mexico and Colombia — fell $1.15 billion from the 2013 total, though gold remained the No. 1 import with a value of $5.60 billion. The fall of computer chip imports was more precipitous, down $2.55 billion, to $2.22 billion, from a record $4.77 billion in 2013.
South Florida’s top 15 trade partners remained largely intact from the previous year, with only Mexico and Switzerland — on different ends of the gold trade — dropping out while France and Panama moved into the top 15. Panama did so despite its trade falling for the second consecutive year.
South Florida’s top trade in 2014 was Brazil, as it has been since 1995, the year it supplanted Colombia. South Florida trade with Brazil set a record in 2014 for the fifth consecutive year. Two other trade partners set records for trade with South Florida, No. 10-ranked Ecuador and No. 12-ranked France.
Among the top 15 trade partners for South Florida, France showed the most upward mobility, rising four positions while the Dominican Republic rose three, to rank No. 5. Falling the most in rank among the top 15 were Peru, down three, and Venezuela, down two.
Thirty nations exceeded $1 billion in trade with South Florida. That’s one fewer than in 2013. The only country to leave the Billion Dollar Club was Japan. Trade with Japan fell from $1.10 billion to $906.46 million, pushing it below India and Vietnam.
The top 10 trade partners accounted for 54.96 percent of all South Florida trade, which is led by Miami International Airport, PortMiami and Port Everglades in Broward County.
The top nine South Florida exports exceeded $1 billion in value, the same number and the same commodities as in 2013 but one fewer than in 2012. That year, motor vehicle exports topped $1 billion for the third consecutive year.
The top South Florida export is civilian aircraft, engines and parts, which totaled $6.34 billion and fell 0.14 percent shy of the 2013 record. With the exception of 2011 and 2012, when gold ranked No. 1, the aviation category has ranked atop South Florida’s exports due to the large aviation industry centered in and around Miami International Airport.
Cell phones and other telephone equipment was the No. 2 export, topping $5 billion in value for the third consecutive year but falling from a record $5.62 billion in 2013 to $5.23 billion in 2013. Computer exports, topping $4 billion for three consecutive years, fell to $3.78 billion but moved up one, ahead of gold, to rank No. 3.
Two exports among the top 10 set records in 2014: No. 5 Medical instruments, which covers a relatively wide range of products, from high-end and expensive machinery to needles, and No. 6 medicine, which covers a wide variety of pharmaceuticals, both symptomatic of Latin America’s rising middle class and overall quality of life. Medical instruments fell just shy of $1.77 billion and medicine just below $1.42 billion.
The top 10 exports accounted for 40.46 percent of all exports, down from 43.05 percent in 2013.
On the import side, after gold, which has been the leading import since 2009, gasoline was No. 2 with a $3.67 billion total, the closest it has come to crossing $4 billion since doing so in 2008.
Cell phones topped $2.56 billion, one of three imports setting a record in 2014. Cell phone imports are growing because of new flights coming directly to South Florida from China, meaning they don’t have to be trucked east from either Dallas-Fort Worth or Los Angeles — although billions of dollars’ worth still are.
Fish fillets, the seventh most valuable import, also set a record in 2014 as did the No. 10 import, a hodge-podge category for returned charitable items.
The top 10 imports topped $10 billion in value in 2014, up one from 2013 and the most ever.
The top 10 imports accounted for 46.30 percent of all imports, down slightly from 49.34 percent the year before.
Ken Roberts is the founder and president of WorldCity, a Coral Gables-based company that pays attention to the impact of globalization on local communities. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florida’s year in trade
Change in rank
Source: WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census data