By Joel Connelly, August 28, 2013, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle gets a high No. 7 ranking in the latest list of top 25 United States cities for world trade, published this week by Global Trade magazine.
But the list carries a message: Grow, or quickly lose out to other ports. Seattle kept up with growth of trade in 2011 over 2010, but Port of Seattle leaders have delivered warnings.
Houston is No. 1 on the top-25 list, mainly due to its role in the carbon economy, rooted in oil and coal. Its exports grew by nearly 30 percent in 2011 to a total of $104.5 billion. Six cities on the Global Trade list are in the Lone Star State, with inland San Antonio in 10th place.
The No. 2 place on the list belongs to New York, with a 23.5 percent increase in export growth to a total of $105.1 billion. One key fact: Trade with Asia, specifically China and Hong Kong, represents a sizable chunk of growth for an Atlantic seaboard city traditionally associated with European commerce.
The juggernaut that is Los Angeles-Long Beach, by far the largest port complex on the West Coast, is at No. 3, registering a 16.9 percent increase to $72.7 billion in exports.
It is followed by Miami, at $43.1 billion in exports, up 20 percent in 2011 over 2010. The magazine describes Miami as “the capital of Latin America” in its trade emphasis.
New Orleans is No. 5 at $24.4 billion, a 19.8 percent increase, one more city on the east side of the North American continent that is experiencing a rapid increase in trans-Pacific trade with China. Chicago, at $39.5 billion with a 17.21 percent increase, is No. 6, claiming a big chunk of business with the leading U.S. trade partner — Canada.
Seattle is No. 7, enough in other rankings to merit a Bowl Championship Series berth. Seriously, its exports rose 16.1 percent to $41.1 billion. Global Trade notes that the Emerald City has experienced booms, based first on wood products and fisheries, and later aircraft, and now on the output of the new technology economy.
Detroit fought the North American Free Trade Agreement but ranks No. 8 in the increase in exports. Salt Lake City is a surprising No. 9: Global Trade notes that 50,000 Utah residents (33,000 in Salt Lake City) are directly employed in export-driven jobs. San Antonio is No. 10.
Two other West Coast cities make the list. Portland is No. 18, with $20.9 billion in 2011 exports, up by 12.97 percent, with San Francisco at No. 20, its $23.6 billion in exports representing a 10.28 percent increase.
The figures indicate a fast track, and a highly competitive situation.
At a recent briefing with Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Port of Seattle boss Tay Yoshitani warned of increased competition particularly from Prince Rupert in British Columbia. The Canadian city is a shorter trip for cargo ships across the Pacific. Shippers can avoid a port maintenance fee, paid in U.S. ports, while shipping cargoes directly to the American Midwest.
“Cargo ordinarily handled by U.S. ports is being targeted by Canada and Mexico. The shipping business is extremely competitive and I’ve seen a few dollars make a difference in port choice,” said Yoshitani.
Or, as John Wolfe of the Port of Tacoma added: “I’ve never experienced the type of competitive aspect that we face today.”