South Florida's Latin America trade up
By Scott Blake
South Florida's trade totals with a majority of Latin American nations have been up this year, but some wonder if the region's title in the shipping industry as "Gateway to Latin America" is slipping away.
A recent report by the Florida Foreign Trade Association pointed out that Houston is now the top US Customs District for trade with Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Chile and Argentina.
"US Customs District Miami's title as the US Gateway with Latin America is slowly fading away and US Customs District Houston is moving into this position," the report states.
Based on cargo statistics for 2011, the report notes that roughly 40% of US Customs District Miami's trade numbers include "transit shipments" moving through Miami coming to and from other US ports. The district covers Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties.
Despite such caveats, the district saw increases in trade with a number of South Florida's largest Latin American trading partners in the first half of this year, Florida Foreign Trade Association statistics show.
Among the top five, South Florida had large trade surpluses with all but one — Costa Rica.
The total value of imports and exports moving between US Customs District Miami and Brazil, the top partner, increased 12.2% to $8.02 billion from January through June, compared with the same period in 2011.
Trade with Brazil included a surplus of $5.43 billion for South Florida in the first half of the year.
Trade between Colombia and Miami rose 23% to a total value of $4.79 billion from January through June. That included a surplus of $618.9 million.
A strongpoint for local trade with Colombia is imported flowers, which, according to the Doral-based Association of Floral Importers of Florida, are the largest perishable product imported through Miami International Airport.
Miami sees several incoming flights a day from cargo planes full of South American flowers, mainly from Colombia and Ecuador, said Christine Boldt, the association's executive vice president.
According to Ms. Boldt, nearly 90% of flowers imported into the US come through Miami. That accounts for roughly 6,000 jobs in Greater Miami, from jobs at the airport, to workers at nearby packaging plants and refrigerated warehouses, to trucking jobs.
"There's a lot to the flower industry in South Florida," she said. "It started in the early '70s and has grown since then."
Here's a look at South Florida's other top Latin American trade partners, with totals from January through June:
The value of trade with Costa Rica rose 33.1% to $3.33 billion; trade with Venezuela dropped 2.86% to $3.27 billion; and trade with Chile increased 17.3% to $2.62 billion.
Meanwhile, total trade with the Dominican Republic increased 5.8% to $2.51 billion; Honduras fell 10.4% to $2.06 billion; Mexico rose 9.4% to $1.88 billion; Peru was up 7.5% to $1.62 billion; and Argentina was up 8.1% to $1.27 billion, statistics show.
In addition, trade between US Customs District Miami and Spain totaled $654.2 million for all of 2011. That was an increase of 2% from 2010. The district had a trade deficit with Spain of $110.7 million last year.
Trade figures with Spain for 2012 were not available. However, those totals may fall this year due to the current financial crisis gripping Spain.
"Centrist politicians and mainstream media routinely blamed Europe's sovereign debt crisis on lavish social programs, generous worker benefits, restrictive firing practices and strong unions," states the current edition of the Trends Journal, an online report tracking worldwide economic and political trends.
"While these elements undoubtedly played a role in the Spanish crisis," the report adds, "the driving force behind the entire debacle was the financial industry's irresponsible lending spree, which had inflated the decade-long property bubble that burst."
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