In China Tariff Fight, These U.S. Seaports, Airports Have Much To Lose
A truck passes containers stacked at the Port of Long Beach last week, including some from COSCO, the Chinese state-owned shipping and logistics company. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
By Ken Roberts
My last post looked at the U.S. airports and seaports likely to lose the most revenue if the tariff battle between the United States and China escalates.
This one will take a slightly different approach. It will look at those airports and seaports that, while they might not lose the most revenue — because they don’t handle the volume of Chinese imports as those in the earlier post — stand to lose a disproportionate share. That’s because China is relatively more important to them.
Airports and seaports charge fees based on the weight of imports landing at their airports and docking at their seaports, rather than the value of that trade. Looking at all airport imports, China accounts for 24.90% of the tonnage. On the seaport side, it is considerably lower, at 10.26%. The reason the seaport total is lower is because it includes heavy commodities that don’t come from China, such as oil and motor vehicles.
One of those smaller airports — smaller than Chicago’s O’Hare, Los Angeles International, New York’s JFK, Dallas-Fort Worth International or San Francisco International, the five that handle the largest volume of Chinese imports — is Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International, which is in Hebron, Ky. So far this year, 35.30% of its imports are from China, with about one-third computers and cell phones and related equipment. The total tops 40% if leather shoes and shoes made from fabric, or from textiles are included.
A second airport with a total slightly greater than the average of Seattle-Tacoma International, at 26.54%. Computers and cell phones, which account for so much of the tonnage of most airports, are only accounting for 15.1% of the total. A wide variety of other imports – women’s dresses and skirts, insulated wire and cable, plastic boxes and containers, and video game consoles — are accounting for another 12%.
On the seaport side the five with the potential to lose the most revenue are Los Angeles, Long Beach, Newark, Savannah and Houston.
Other seaports that don’t handle the tonnage of those but have above-average percentages of Chinese imports include Tacoma and Oakland, above 39%, and Seattle, at just under 35%. Another two above the average are PortMiami and the Port of Virginia, both above 20%.
Here’s a look at what those imports are:
Tacoma: Scrap iron or steel and gypsum account for 10.5% of the total, with motor vehicle parts and furniture and parts accounting for another 8.7%, bringing the total to just under 20% of the total tonnage.
Oakland: Glass containers, furniture and parts, and seats (generally automotive) accounted for slighly more than 20% of the total through May, the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, which I analyzed.
Seattle: Cement and furniture and parts accounted for more than 20% of the total.
PortMiami: Ceramic tiles and furniture and parts are accounting for 15.8% of the total so far this year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau data. The category that includes plywood and laminated wood puts the total above 20%.