South Florida trade rockets ahead, beats pre-recession level
By Zachary Fagenson
Trade through South Florida in the first two month of 2011 rocketed to $16.1 billion, surpassing both recession and pre-recession levels.
Brazil was the top partner in the Miami Customs District, which stretches from Port St. Lucie to the Keys, with about $2.2 billion in two-way trade, up 13.7% from same period of 2010, according to a WorldCity analysis of US Census Bureau data.
Colombia claimed the number two spot, with trade jumping more than 7% to nearly $1.9 billion.
A pending free trade agreement with Colombia — which the White House endorsed early last month and advocates hope Congress will soon take up — could make it an even more important trading partner.
Rounding out the top five were Venezuela, Switzerland and China, each growing more than 5% compared to the previous year.
Nearly all the district's top exports and imports for the second month in a row moved at record levels, the most of noticeable of which was about $405 million worth of electronic integrated circuits flowing into the region.
Last year only $3.3 million worth of circuits came in during the first two months, putting the category in 157th place out of all imports by value. In 2009 circuits hit 110th place, with about $5.7 million worth of imports, though the category hasn't always been an outlier.
Circuits were the 18th highest valued import through the first two months of 2002, with $49.7 million worth entering the region. That climbed to $115 million the following year before falling to $73.3 million in the beginning of 2004, then $39.4 million in 2005 and finally $3.6 million through February 2006. It has remained below $10 million for those months since, but may be on a rebound.
"They are coming from Costa Rica and are the result of increased demand rather than a change in trade lane," WorldCity President Ken Roberts said in a previous interview. "To me, that suggests business confidence regarding demand for technology."
The region's other record-setting imports for the first two months of the year include $617 million in gold imports, above the $404.8 million imported in the first two months last year; $269.9 million worth of landline and cell phone equipment; $199 million worth of t-shirts and tank tops, and $177 million in fresh-cut flowers.
Yet not every one of the top 10 imports is on the rise.
Oil imports fell from $538.9 million to $392.7 million, while imports of returned exports, or goods sent back to the US, fell from the $288.7 million record set last year to $213 million.
On the export side, aircraft parts, precious metal scrap, cell phone equipment, computers and electronic integrated circuits all held their top five spots compared to January of this year and set records. Medical instruments, printers and cotton held spots seven through nine and set records.
The only two top-10 exports that didn't set records were computer parts, which fell from $339.7 million in the first two months of 2009 to $257.6 million, and motor vehicles, which grew from $155.6 million to $169 million but fell well short of the $210.1 million record set in 2008.
Despite the growth in overall trade through South Florida, cargo trade through Miami International Airport has yet to recover pre-recession levels.
About 433,800 tons of cargo moved through the airport in the first quarter of 2011, according to the Florida Foreign Trade Association, a third of a percentage point increase over 2010 and more than a 25% increase over the same period in 2009, but not enough to reach the 508,875 tons that moved through the airport in the first quarter of 2008.
Whether trade will reach that level in the near future remains unclear.
"While both domestic and international cargo tonnage show a leap in percentage in 2010 versus 2009, the figures for 2011 versus 2010 show very little growth," association Vice President Joe Smith wrote. "This growth percentage slowdown is at the level predicted by the [Air Transport Association]."
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