I spent a day checking out the construction projects at the Port of Long Beach, the second-busiest port in the US (after the Port of Los Angeles which is right next door). Watching the containers loading and unloading and the hearing about the future of the port, including its sustainability mission and significant widening to accommodate the world’s largest container ships got me thinking about how crippled we would be without international trade markets.
Why does trade benefit the US? Think of trade as something that is exchanged between partners. The US has partners across the globe and increasingly, our trade with Asian countries is growing, both in volume and dollar amounts. There are political implications to this, but for the most part, a booming trade between countries leads to business, education and exchange opportunities between partners, and the US and its partners are no exception. When a business is growing, it is easier for companies to obtain international trade financing to grow their operations quickly and fund new investments. Without being limited by a slowdown in available liquid capital, many companies have seen the benefits of expanding domestic companies to international operations.
I got to see a personal example of this recently as a friend of mine has begun to ship a high-end soap brand to several Asian and European countries. In the US, we often equate European products with high quality, but American brands are also seen as high quality in other countries, especially China. Thanks to this, he expects his international sales to grow to over 40% of his business in 2013 alone. With manufacturers returning to the US, and breathing new life back into American-made goods, international trade will continue to grow. As an individual consumer, you can take advantage of the opportunities that the open market provides by checking out sites like Alibaba for products ranging from jeans to kitchen appliances. You might even decide to dabble in trade yourself by buying items in bulk and reselling them in a retail store.
Back at the Port of Long Beach, I watched as the marine construction contractor performed its work from a barge. They’ll be expanding the terminal to accommodate the ultra-large container ships which can carry even more containers and increase trade to the region. It’s exciting to be in the middle of the action, but it’s even more exciting to think about what faster, more efficient trade means for the US.