Business Monday

Colombia trade falling here, and across U.S.


Colombia’s trade with South Florida is down 13.13 percent through the first three months of 2015, and that’s the good news.

Despite the drop, Colombia remains South Florida’s second most important trade partner, following only perennial No. 1 Brazil, which was featured in this space last week. Colombia has been South Florida’s second most important trade partner in the first quarter since 2008, when it passed Venezuela.

In the coming weeks, I will look in greater depth at the remainder of South Florida’s top 10 trade partners: No. 3 China, No. 4 Chile, No. 5 the Dominican Republic, No. 6 Honduras, No. 7 Peru, No. 8 Venezuela, No. 9 France and, finally Costa Rica, which ranked No. 4 at this time last year but has fallen to No. 10.

▪ U.S. rank: The news gets worse when you expand the view. Colombia’s trade with the United States through the first quarter is down 21.49 percent. U.S. trade is off 3.07 percent during this period. A year ago, Colombia ranked as the United States’ 19th most important trade partner, one of four in the hemisphere in the top 20. (The other three are No. 1 Canada, No. 3 Mexico and No. 9 Brazil.) In 2015, Colombia has slipped six positions to rank No. 25. Only four nations have seen trade fall more than the $2.13 billion that Colombia’s has fallen: Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Russia and Kuwait.

▪ South Florida trade: The 13.13 percent decline for Colombia so far this year is the second consecutive year of a decline. Colombia’s South Florida trade is off 18.77 percent when compared to the same time period of 2013. By comparison, South Florida’s trade with the world is down 3.27 percent when compared to the same period of 2014, and 9.38 percent when compared to the first quarter of 2013 — about one-half of Colombia’s decline.

▪ Importance to South Florida: Colombia accounted for 7.36 percent of all South Florida trade in the first quarter of 2015. The last time the percentage was lower was in the first quarter of 2009, six years ago.

▪ South Florida competition: The reason South Florida’s trade with Colombia falling 13.13 percent is the good news is because Colombia’s trade is falling more severely elsewhere. While its trade with South Florida is down $303.68 million, its trade with Houston is off $727.33 million, and off $513.30 million with New Orleans. Consequently, South Florida has regained the crown as the leading gateway for U.S. trade with Colombia. It was last No. 1 in the first quarter of 2009. That was the last year — until 2015 — that South Florida was responsible for more than 25 percent of all U.S.-Colombia trade.

▪ South Florida exports to Colombia: There are two key pieces to the puzzle of why South Florida trade with Colombia is down. One is an import and one an export. The export is cellphones. Previously the most important export from South Florida to Colombia, cellphones now rank second after falling 54.67 percent from the same period of 2014. Overall, South Florida exports to Colombia are down 11.29 percent. But the $130.25 million drop in cellphone exports is almost six times greater than the loss by the commodity to suffer the second steepest decline, computers, which nevertheless became the new No. 1 export. The good news on the export side was that aircraft exports — aircraft, parts, engines, civilian and military — increased more than 50 percent. The civilian side remained the third most important export, and the military side advanced 10 positions to rank No. 12.

▪ South Florida imports from Colombia: On the import side, the steep decline was in the value of gold shipments, which remained the top inbound shipment despite falling $178.03 million in value. During the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009, gold became a highly coveted commodity, and South Florida became a leading hub for gold from Mexico and Colombia, bound for Switzerland. That has largely died down the past couple of years. Overall, imports from Colombia fell $143.14 million — meaning that, when gold is excluded, the value of Colombia imports into South Florida increased. The value of gold imports into South Florida from Colombia peaked in the first quarter of 2013 at $674.32 million, well above the $325.45 million total this year. Despite the decline, the value of gold accounted for 43.48 percent of the value of all imports into South Florida from Colombia — though that’s down from 63.71 percent in the first quarter of 2013.

▪ Surplus/Deficit: Through the first three months of 2015, South Florida has a $512.78 million surplus with Colombia. That is the second largest on record with Colombia, below only the total from the previous year, $530.18 million, and the third largest in 2015 among all nations, trailing only Brazil and Argentina. The South Florida surplus with Brazil was $1.66 billion in the first quarter of 2015, while the surplus with Argentina was $583.37 million. Among the nation’s Customs districts, South Florida’s is the greatest in 2015 but below the $726.89 million surplus Houston had with Colombia in 2012.

▪ Exports by port: Miami International Airport is the biggest player in exports to Colombia, by value. Consequently, the large drops have primarily been felt there — in cellphones and computers. Exports from PortMiami and Port Everglades are relatively flat through the first quarter of 2015. PortMiami’s leading exports to Colombia are motor vehicles parts, heavy machinery parts and bulldozers. Port Everglades’ leading exports there are printers, engine parts and computers.

▪ Imports by port: Essentially all the gold that enters South Florida enters at MIA, and on the import side as well as the export side, it has borne the brunt of the drop in South Florida trade with Colombia. Other leading imports into MIA from Colombia are fresh-cut flowers, down slightly through the first three months of 2015; fish fillets, up almost 20 percent; and bras and other women’s underwear, up more than 70 percent.

▪ Coming next: Next week, a closer look at South Florida’s exports and imports with China, the third most important South Florida trade partner this year. South Florida trade with China is up 1.27 percent so far in 2015.

Ken Roberts is founder and president of WorldCity, based in Coral Gables. He can be reached at

South Florida trade with Colombia only one above $2B


March 2014


Total Trade

March 2014 YTD

1-year change

1-year change

10-year change

10-year change


All Districts

$ 7,790,867,765























New Orleans








Port Arthur, Texas








Los Angeles








New York City
























San Francisco
























Low Value Shipments
























San Juan






Source: WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data