Study says Southern California's international trade will rebound this year

Despite two consecutive down years, Southern California's international trade industry will rebound this year and next with increased container activity at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to a study released today.

Although the number of containers handled at the ports dipped by 17.6 percent between 2008 and 2009 and the trade value dropped to $283 billion, the Los Angeles Customs District still was ranked first in the nation for trade value last year, according to the International Trade Trends & Impacts report released by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

The second-ranked district, New York, saw a 24.5 percent drop in trade value to $266.7 billion, the report found.

"The number of containers moved at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will grow by 10.2 percent in 2010, while the total value of two-way trade through the Los Angeles Customs District should increase by 9 percent to $308.5 billion," said Nancy Sidhu, the chief economist of the private group dedicated to improving the county's business climate.

The increase will be a welcome change after two years of declines, according to the report.

"2009 was a year full of unhappy surprises for the international trade industry," Sidhu said. "Trade-related employment dropped across the Southern California region, from longshore workers at the ports to truckers to distribution center employees in the Inland Empire."

With the hefty decline in container traffic last year, the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex dropped a notch, and now ranks sixth among the world's top ports, the report found.

Among the report's other findings:

– China continued to be the top trading partner for the Los Angeles Customs District in 2009, with total two-way trade of $155.3 billion.

– Japan was the second-ranked trade partner, with a 2009 trade value of $42.3 billion.

– The top export commodity category out of the district in 2009 was computers, peripherals, machinery, appliances and parts, with a value of $12.5 billion.

– The top two import categories were computers, peripherals, machinery, appliances and parts; and electrical equipment, televisions and electronic parts, both with a value of $48 billion.

"The global economic downturn was a huge problem in 2009, as the economies of four of the Los Angeles Customs District's top five trading partners dropped into recession," said Jack Kyser, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.'s founding economist.

"However, all five economies have now returned to growth mode, which bodes well for international trade activity in 2010," Kyser said. "This year, the two ports should see an increase of 10.2 percent in the number of containers moved."

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