LA Trade Growth Drops Sharply

Growth in international trade through the Los Angeles/Long Beach customs district came to a sharp halt during the first nine months of 1998, according to a new report released by the Lowe Institute of Political Economy at Claremont McKenna College.

After several years of steady growth, trade passing through the district’s ports fell from $134.7 billion to $134.3 billion. By comparison, trade passing through the New York/New Jersey customs district increased by 4.5 percent during the same period.

Trade with Japan, the district’s top trading partner, declined by 6.4 percent to $32.1 billion during the first three quarters of 1998. Most of the drop in total volume was due to a sharp decline in exports, which fell 17 percent to $9.3 billion. Imports from Japan also decreased, but by a relatively modest 2 percent to $22.7 billion.

Fueled by Chinese imports, trade with China rose by almost 13 percent to $21.6 billion in the first three quarters of 1998. While imports grew 15 percent to $19.6 billion, exports to China fell 16 percent to $2.0 billion.

As expected, trade with Asia’s main crisis countries experienced significant drops. Exports to South Korea were down by 43 percent in the first nine months of the year. Exports to Indonesia fell 40 percent. Exports to Malaysia fell 23 percent.

While Asia is the largest source of the region’s trade, the steep drop in trade with these nations was partially offset by growth in trade with European countries. For example, trade with Germany increased by over 28 percent to $2.6 billion in the first nine months of the year. Exports to Germany rose by 34 percent, while imports increased by 20 percent. Trade with the United Kingdom also showed sharp increases.

The Lowe Institute of Political Economy supports the study of major issues in economic policy. Its recent work has focused on NAFTA, APEC, and other international trade issues. Claremont McKenna College is a highly selective independent liberal arts college preparing students for responsible leadership in business and public affairs. CMC enrolls 1,000 students and is a member of The Claremont Colleges.