Chile is like the A- student, or the baseball player who is a career .290 hitter in the Major Leagues — rock-steady and strong but rarely in the limelight. From its economy to its politics to its trade, Chile is, generally speaking, a safe bet.
Through the first four months of 2015, it is also South Florida’s fourth most important trade partner, trailing only No. 1 Brazil, No. 2 Colombia and No. 3 China, according to Census Bureau data. While trade with Brazil, Colombia and China is down this year, trade with Chile is up 1.89 percent to $1.73 billion. Through the first four months of 2012 and 2013, South Florida trade with Chile was greater than this year, topping $1.8 billion. But the 2015 period trails only those for the highest on record. Overall South Florida trade is down 3.72 percent this year.
South Florida’s trade with Brazil, Colombia and China were covered in the previous three weeks; trade with No. 5 Dominican Republic, No. 6 Honduras, No. 7 Peru, No. 8 Venezuela, No. 9 Costa Rica and No. 10 France will be covered in successive weeks.
U.S. rank: While Chile ranks as South Florida’s fourth most important trade partner, it ranks No. 26 nationally. While that’s three positions higher than at the same time in 2014, the nearly $9.0 billion in trade remains below the totals for the past three years. The quickest start out of the gates for Chile was in 2013, when trade through the first four months of the year totaled $9.90 billion. It is the fifth most important U.S. trade partner in the Western Hemisphere for the United States, trailing No. 1 Canada, No. 3 Mexico, No. 11 Brazil and No. 25 Colombia.
South Florida trade: It is not only when compared to last year that Chile is outperforming overall South Florida trade. Over the last five years, South Florida trade has increased 24.51 percent while South Florida trade with Chile has increased 40.82 percent. Over a 10-year period, Chile’s trade with South Florida has increased 168.51 percent, more than double the 77.22 percent for the overall market.
Importance to South Florida: Given that it is outperforming overall trade growth for South Florida, it is not entirely surprising that Chile has never accounted for a greater percentage of the area’s trade, at 4.74 percent. But the variance is relatively slight, with the lowest percentage in the last seven years at 4.05. That was the total through the first four months of 2010.
South Florida competition: South Florida leads the nation for U.S. trade with Chile, accounting for almost four times as much as No. 2-ranked New Orleans. Although it has outranked all other U.S. Customs districts through April for more than a decade — accounting for more than 40 percent all of those years — somewhat surprisingly South Florida has twice finished the year behind Houston, in 2011 and 2012. South Florida’s trade with Houston varies in one primary way: The Texas Customs district’s trade with Chile is dominated by exports of gasoline. Thanks to a 35.7 percent drop in exports from Houston to Chile this year, Houston has fallen behind New Orleans, San Juan and New York City. Much of that Houston export volume of gasoline and other refined petroleum products has shifted this year to New Orleans.
South Florida exports to Chile: South Florida exports to Chile have topped $1 billion through April for five consecutive years, and the 2015 total was second only to the 2013 total. The 12.45 percent growth from 2014 was led by computers, which increased 56.49 percent and advanced from the second most important export to the most important. Cellphone exports also increased more than 50 percent, and both computers and cellphones jumped past civilian aircraft, parts and engines, the previous No. 1. Motor vehicle parts also increased more than 50 percent, and advanced one to rank fourth, behind the aviation category.
South Florida imports from Chile: Fish fillets accounted for more than 50 percent of all imports into South Florida through April, the second consecutive year above that total. South Florida, in fact, leads the nation in these imports — not just from Chile, but from the world. Nevertheless, the value of those imports fell 12.08 percent from the 2014 record total. That is slightly less than the 14.87 percent decline for all imports from Chile into South Florida. Corn, which had ranked as the second most important export in 2014 at this time, fell 60 percent and dropped to No. 3. The new No. 2 is the category of “other fresh fruit.” In the case of imports from Chile into South Florida, it is blueberries, a growing import due to PortMiami efforts to change federal regulations that previously indirectly forced many fresh fruits to travel past South Florida to enter the United States.
Surplus/Deficit: The United States trade surplus with Chile has grown more than tenfold since a decade ago, one year after the free trade agreement between the two nations went into effect. The Miami surplus has not grown nearly as rapidly, increasing from what was then a nation-leading $118.90 million in 2005 to $186.46 million this year. New Orleans’ and Houston’s trade surpluses have grown more than tenfold in that time period, and Miami ranks No. 3 for the size of its surplus.
Exports by port: On the export side, Miami International Airport accounts for about three-quarters of the value of all shipments, since it handles the vast majority of the computers and cellphones. Port Everglades handles most of the rest, led by printers and motor vehicle parts.
Imports by port: On the import side, MIA accounts for about 60 percent of the value of all imports, with Port Everglades again accounting for most of the remainder. Almost 70 percent of the MIA imports from Chile are fish fillets. Most of the blueberries enter at Port Everglades, though about one-sixth enter at PortMiami.
Ken Roberts is founder and president of WorldCity, based in Coral Gables. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Chile’s top U.S. gateways for trade
New York City
Port Arthur, Texas
Low Value Shipments
Source: WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data