For the second consecutive year, Miami International Airport’s trade with the world declined, with the 2014 one-year drop the steepest in at least a decade.
The news, however, is not as bad as it might seem. MIA’s trade with the world had been on a strong positive trajectory for most of the last decade, according to WorldCity analysis of the annual U.S. Census Bureau data released earlier this month.
So, while the decline from $70.72 billion in 2012 to $62.78 billion in 2014 doesn’t look great, it obscures the fact the airport’s trade with the world has still doubled from its 2006 total of $31.03 billion.
MIA is one of three driving “ports” in South Florida. The other two are PortMiami and Port Everglades. I took a closer look at Port Everglades’ trade with the world in this space and will cover PortMiami next week. I looked at the South Florida Customs district, which encompasses these three ports as well as the Port of Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale International Airport, two weeks ago.
In dollar terms, MIA is by far the busiest of the ports in South Florida, as is the case in most Customs districts around the country. Air cargo tends to be lighter weight, not surprisingly, but also is more expensive — or it is more important that it be in the supply chain for a shorter period of time. Heavier items, like cars or cement, sail the ocean. Not computer chips, for example, which are lightweight and expensive. Gold, while not lightweight, is certainly expensive.
Both gold and computer chips fly, rather than sail, and the decline in the import of both of these two, and the export of gold, are the primary reason that MIA’s trade has fallen two consecutive years.
As regular readers of this column know, gold trade from Colombia and Mexico through MIA and on to Switzerland flourished during the global economic crisis — when investors wanted a sense of security that gold offered — but it has fallen precipitously in the last couple of years. The computer chip story is related to Intel’s decision to largely move manufacturing from Costa Rica to Malaysia. Bottom line: Both are essentially outside of MIA’s control, or the control of the thriving logistics companies that envelop the airport.
Despite the decline, MIA does more trade than all but four other U.S. airports, according to WorldCity’s analysis of the Census data: New York’s JFK, Chicago’s O’Hare, Los Angeles’ LAX and New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International.
Overall, U.S. airport trade increased 4.80 percent in 2014 to $986.16 billion, when compared to 2013, with exports increasing 2.73 percent to $442.84 billion and imports jumping 6.56 percent to $543.33 billion. The “airport deficit” totaled $100.49 billion.
MIA’s totals were an 8.66 percent decline in overall trade, with a 5.17 percent decline in exports to $38.32 billion and a 13.65 percent decrease in imports to $24.46 billion. MIA’s trade surplus — running counter to all U.S. airports — was $13.85 billion.
MIA’s record trade surplus occurred in 2011, at $21.12 billion. That year, the MIA surplus with Switzerland was $6.83 billion. In 2014, MIA still had a trade surplus with the European nation but it had slipped to $507.89 million. Switzerland, MIA’s third most important trade partner that year, is now No. 11, having fallen another six positions from the 2013 ranking.
MIA’s top trade partner in 2014 was Brazil, as is customary, and its 2014 total of $13.07 billion was, in fact, a record. Colombia and Costa Rica follow, in the No. 2 and No. 3 positions, and both saw their trade decline, for the reasons previously mentioned. Rounding out the top five in 2014 were Chile, up two positions, and Peru, down one position. (Peru was a late entrant to the gold importing party, but has now seen that erode.)
Rounding out the top 10 are No. 6, China, No. 7 Ecuador, No. 8 Argentina, No. 9 Bolivia and No. 10 Hong Kong. Ecuador, Bolivia and Hong Kong all set records for MIA trade in 2014 — and all are tied to gold trade, with the first two importing into MIA and the latter on the receiving end. It seems as the Swiss banks’ interest in gold from South Florida has diminished, Hong Kong’s has increased.
In fact, despite the decline in gold imports from Colombia and Mexico over the last couple of years, gold remained South Florida’s most valuable inbound commodity in 2014. The $5.35 billion total was lower than either the record $6.03 billion total of 2013 or the 2012 total but the third highest on record.
Likewise, with computer chips, ranked No. 2: Imports fell to $2.57 billion in 2014, down from a record $5.30 billion in 2013 and even the $4.98 billion total of 2012, but the third-greatest total on record.
Other top 10 imports in 2014 were No. 3 cellphones, which reached a record $2.30 billion; Nos. 4 and 5, both returned export categories, one repaired and the other not; No. 6. fish fillets, which also set a record, at $945.55 million; No. 7 fresh-cut flowers, also a record-setter at $848.46 million; No. 8 jewelry and parts; No. 9 heterocyclic chemical compounds, which exploded from little more than $100 million in 2013 to $423.50 million in 2014; and No. 10 computers, off sharply, from a record $677.05 million to $403.25 million.
On the export side, civilian aircraft, engines and parts were top ranked for 2014, with a value of $5.48 billion. MIA is one of the world’s leading destinations for repair and maintenance of aircraft. For the third consecutive year, those imports have topped $5 billion in value.
Other top five exports were No. 2 cellphones, No. 3 gold, No. 4 computers and No. 5 medical instruments, which set a record in 2014 at $1.38 billion. The other top four exports fell in value in 2014.
Rounding out the top 10 were No. 6 medicine, No. 7 computer chips, No. 8 computer parts, No. 9 cameras and No. 10 military aircraft engines and parts. Medicine exports set a record in 2014, with a total value of $1.35 billion.
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 email@example.com.
Miami International Airport’s 2014 trade with the world
Change in rank
Source: WorldCity Analysis of U.S. Census data