International Business

Miami trade wasn’t so golden in 2013

The value of trade through the Miami Customs District fell 3.3 percent last year, dropping it two notches to No. 12 among the nation’s 43 customs district.

Imports and exports moving through the Miami district, which includes airport and seaports stretching from Palm Beach County to Key West, fell to $120.49 billion in 2013, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data presented Friday by WorldCity, a Coral Gables media and data research company.

“Overall it was relatively flat year for the Miami district,’’ said Ken Roberts, president of WorldCity, during a trade trends seminar at the Intercontinental at Doral hotel.

Exports totaled $67.9 billion last year — down 7.17 percent from the previous year —while imports were up up 2.2 percent to $52.56 billion.

Miami’s importance as a major trans-shipment point for gold heading from Mexican and South American mines to Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates tends to skew the trade numbers.

During the global recession, demand for gold surged and prices skyrocketed, boosting the relative importance of gold in the local trade picture. The price of gold surged to an all-time high of $1,900 a troy ounce in the late summer of 2011, but gold has taken a tumble. On Friday, it was trading at around $1,327 on the spot market.

High prices made gold both the Miami district’s leading export and import in 2012. Last year it was still the leading import at $6.75 billion but the value of gold exports fell 38.5 percent to $4.88 billion, dropping it to third place in the local customs district.

The value of imports and exports is just one way to get a snapshot of what’s going on with trade. Tonnage is another yardstick.

“The airports and seaports make their money on weight,’’ said Roberts.

Still, dollar value provides a way to compare which markets are up or down and which commodities and products are in demand — or not.

Despite a sluggish economy at home, Brazil, for example, remained the Miami district’s top trading partner in 2013 with $16.8 billion in total trade — far eclipsing second-ranked Colombia at $9.34 billion. Rounding out the list of Top-10 trading partners: Costa Rica, China, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Switzerland.

But a single commodity or product can have out-sized influence in trade numbers.

Buoyed by high gold prices in 2012, Switzerland occupied the No. 3 spot on the list of top trading partners. A year later it slipped to 10th.

And Brazil’s total was helped by increasing sales of high-value aircraft and aircraft parts, said Roberts. By category, civilian aircraft, engines and parts were the top export from the Miami district, and aircraft ranked sixth on the import list.

While the value of trade that moved through the Miami Customs District dropped in 2013, U.S. trade with the world grew .62 percent to $3.85 trillion. Trade with the United States’ three most important trading partners — Canada, China and Mexico — was up, but trade with Japan, this nation’s No. 4 trading partner, was off by 5.89 percent.