In another couple of weeks, I will be able to report that South Florida’s trade with the world fell in 2014, once the U.S. Census Bureau releases the annual trade data and I have a few moments to “look under the hood.”
Just not yet.
For now, armed with 11 months of data for 2014, we can address why it will be so, focusing on five top trade partners.
Is the Miami Customs district losing market share — in other words, is some other Customs district gaining at our expense? Or is trade with our top trade partners experiencing an overall decline with the entire country and South Florida’s airports and seaports are simply part of that wave?
For example, South Florida’s trade with Brazil, its top trade partner for at least two decades, was up slightly, 0.82 percent, through November, when compared to the same 11 months of 2013. Brazil’s trade with the United States, however, is up nearly twice as fast, 1.49 percent — albeit still a slow rate of growth. So, with Brazil, South Florida is losing market share.
Miami leads the nation in trade with Brazil, South America’s largest economy and one of the largest in the world. Turned the other way, Brazil ranks as the United States’ ninth most important trade partner, joining No.1 Canada and No.3 Mexico as the three hemispheric trade partners in the top 10.
South Florida is losing that market share to Houston, ranked second behind Miami. There, trade was up 12.58 percent when compared to the same 11-month period of 2013 — more than eight times as fast as the national average. South Florida is also losing market share to New Orleans, ranked No.3, where trade increased 7.93 percent. In all three Customs districts, exports to Brazil fell and imports from Brazil rose sharply — 36.92 percent in New Orleans, 25.75 percent in Houston and 19.87 percent in Miami.
Brazil’s slowing economy has hurt South Florida, from which numerous high-tech goods ship. Houston and New Orleans have benefited from increased oil imports and New Orleans further from rising coffee imports.
South Florida’s second most important trade partner is Colombia, the region’s shining star for most of the last decade.
Miami’s trade fell 4.29 percent through the first 11 months of 2014, which is less than the decline experienced by the country at large, which was 5.5 percent. Miami, then, is gaining market share.
Miami ranks second behind Houston in trade with Colombia. Trade to the Texas port city fell an even greater 8.69 percent. No.3 New Orleans and No.4 Los Angeles, however, both registered gains, 6.03 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively.
Overall, Colombia ranks No. 23 among the United States’ top trade partners.
Skipping past No. 3 China, since South Florida plays a marginal role in that trade, the area’s fourth most important trade partner is Costa Rica. Here, South Florida is definitely losing market share, while retaining its status as the nation’s leading gateway for trade with the Central American nation.
Through November, Miami trade with Costa Rica was down 31.24 percent, with imports alone dropping 42.25 percent. As regular readers of this column might recall, Intel largely transferred manufacturing from the San Jose area to Malaysia, gutting Miami International Airport’s computer chip imports.
Overall, U.S. trade with Costa Rica is off 11.59 percent. No. 2-ranked Houston’s trade with Costa Rica is up a slight 1.07 percent but with No. 3 New Orleans the increase is an impressive 31.49 percent. Houston now imports more computer chips that Miami.
The Dominican Republic is South Florida’s fifth most important trade partner. Here, the Miami Customs district, which stretches from Palm Beach in the north to Key West in the south, is losing market share. Overall U.S. trade with the Caribbean island is up an impressive 8.29 percent through the first 11 months of 2014 while South Florida trade is up 1.56 percent.
South Florida remains the dominant gateway for trade with the Dominican Republic, with more than three times the trade of No.2 San Juan, Puerto Rico. However, San’s Juan’s D.R. trade is up 41.81 percent. Trade with No.3 Houston is up 29.34 percent.
The Dominican Republic ranks as the United States’ No. 43-ranked trade partner.
Chile is South Florida’s sixth most important trade partner, and the fifth on which I will focus here, since I skipped No. 3 China. Miami’s trade with Chile is essentially flat, down 0.16 percent through November while U.S. trade with the free-trade partner is down 7.06 percent. That means South Florida is gaining market share.
It is gaining that market share at the expense of Houston, the second most important Customs district for trade with the South American nation, and the fourth most important, Tampa/Jacksonville, the second Florida Customs district. Trade with Houston is off 12.96 percent and with Tampa/Jacksonville 20.98. Houston sends a great deal of gasoline to Chile and Tampa imports a great of copper; both commodities have tumbled on world markets.
Chile ranks as the United States’ 29th most important trade partner.
Stated simply then, South Florida is losing market share with Brazil, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic and gaining market share with Colombia and Chile.
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.
Brazil’s trade with U.S. Customs districts
November 2014 YTD
New York City
Port Arthur, Texas
Source: WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data