Numbers show only slight drop in trade through Miami in quarter
By Jaime Levy
After predictions of plummeting international trade in the third quarter, Enterprise Florida reports a decline but no downward spiral.
The Miami district's total international trade numbers for the third quarter were down only 0.5% from the same time a year ago, said Manny Mencia, senior vice president of international business development.
He said Miami saw a smaller decline than the state's average 1.3% drop.
Florida fared better than the national average, according to Enterprise Florida, the statewide economic development agency. Exports in the state rose 0.3 % in the period, though total trade fell.
US trade totals saw a 3.4% drop during the quarter, the report shows.
"Tampa is very much commodity-driven," Mr. Mencia said. "It's more susceptible to changes in a couple of specific commodities. Miami is a lot more diversified.
"Nevertheless, I still don't think the numbers completely reflect the downturn. I expect the fourth quarter to be weaker, to push a little deeper into the negative for the year, and possibly a soft first and second quarter next year."
Chilton Harper, executive director of Miami's International Trade Board, said he had expected much worse.
"In light of what happened Sept. 11, I think that statistic is quite pleasing," he said. "We're so naturally located for movement of trade, in a way, that almost by sheer weight of necessity, we keep moving."
Mr. Harper said although his department had noticed a substantive slowdown in trade missions and other events since Sept. 11, things were beginning to normalize.
"Everything's picking up again. Everything's coming online," he said of upcoming missions. "Things have not been good but in the first six months of next year, we're moving."
Indeed, the start of next year, said Roger Madan, president of Air Marine Forwarding, will be critical in determining the direction trade through South Florida would move.
"Historically, these particular months are very strong for us because a lot of customers are buying inventory perhaps for Christmas or to prepare for the next year," he said. "If you're slow in the third quarter, you should always see an increase in the fourth quarter, naturally. So you can't say the economy has improved because sales went up in the fourth quarter. Theoretically, they should go up in the fourth quarter. The first quarter would be a true indicator because there's nothing special going on."
Because Latin American economies are so dependent on what happens in the US - and in turn, the South Florida trade sector is dependent on Latin America - Mr. Mencia said he expected trade with that region to pick up once the US economy rebounds.
"At this point I think things will depend on how quick the US economy recovers. The performance of the Latin American market is tied to the performance of the US economy because the US is the dominant economy in the Western Hemisphere, the biggest investor in Latin America, the biggest importer of Latin American products," he said. "As the US recovers, Latin America should recover.
"Hopefully we'll see some light by the end of the third quarter" next year, Mr. Mencia said, "and some recovery into the fourth. That's as good a scenario as I can conceptualize at this point."