Oakland, other ports, open doors for exports
The Port of Los Angeles may have set the standard with its Trade Connect program for outreach to the export community, but it is not the only port actively trying to broker export deals for U.S. companies.
The Port of Oakland, for instance, is putting together a regional export initiative and has taken several other steps to support export trade in Northern California.
Last week, an Obama administration official said ports have the expertise to assist companies and help advance its National Export Initiative (NEI).
On April 15, the port, along with the city and Chamber of Commerce of Oakland, will host the second annual MegaRegion Summit to explore opportunities for export growth for local businesses. Officials from the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration and the Bank of America, a sponsor, are among the scheduled speakers.
Early this month, the Port of Oakland held a half-day symposium in partnership with China's largest port group to raise awareness of U.S.-China trade issues and provide networking opportunities for business leaders that could lead to export or import deals.
Last November, the port entered into a partnership with China Merchants Holdings International to strategically market and develop supply chain products for U.S. exports, particularly agricultural commodities and perishable products.
• U.S. seeks ports as export ambassadors
• L.A. port program serves as NEI model
China Merchant Holdings, publicly listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, owns subsidiaries that operate container, bulk and general cargo terminals throughout China, as well as logistics parks, airport cargo handling and port transportation companies, and a major manufacturer of ocean containers. It handles about 50 million TEUs per year.
The collaboration is focused on developing high-quality temperature-controlled warehousing and transportation services to help preserve and speed up perishable exports to China.
Oakland is a key gateway for U.S. food products, including fruits, nuts, vegetables, meats and wines.
The 'Blueprint for China' event was designed to help U.S. businesses understand market developments in China, such as the growing middle class and new consumption patterns, as well as the logistics challenges there, said Jahan Byrne, the port's business development executive.
Attendees learned, for example, that electronics contract manufacturer FoxConn is migrating from South China and putting a huge facility in the central Chinese province of Chengyu as part of the government's Go West strategy, which creates new challenges for moving fresh food and supplies to a region with limited logistics infrastructure, he said.
Also in November, the port held events in Hong Kong and Chengdu, the world's second-fastest growing city, to help promote U.S. exports to Chinese companies. The events were co-sponsored with the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service and the California Agriculture Export Council.
The Port of Oakland will also hold an invitation-only conference, in conjunction with Commerce Department's U.S. Commercial Service and FedEx, on March 31 to discuss export opportunities to South Korea as the U.S. moves closer to possible ratification of a free trade agreement with the Southeast Asian nation, Byrne said.
And port officials are gearing up, in partnership with the ports of Stockton and Sacramento, to establish a container-on-barge service to move heavyweight containers of agricultural goods, and other commodities, from the fertile San Joaquin Valley to oceangoing vessels in Oakland. The service, supported by a $30 million federal grant, is intended to reduce congestion on highways and allow exporters to move heavier loads that otherwise would be considered overweight for truck transport.
In a move that bears resemblance to Oakland's tie up with China Merchant Holdings, the South Carolina State Ports Authority in mid-February announced a cooperative agreement with Hong Kong-based Dandong Port Group Co. Ltd., to boost trade, particularly in agricultural commodities, between the state's ports and ones in North Asia.
Joint marketing, business development and information sharing are among the ways the two groups plan to cooperate.
It is common for ports to establish sister-port relationships with peers in other countries or have offices in Asia, but the South Carolina and Oakland deals are more comprehensive in that they encompass multiple ports.
Last September, Port of Long Beach Commissioner Mike Walter participated in a California trade mission to South Korea intended to help increase U.S. exports and encourage investment in California. And Port of Tacoma Commissioner Connie Bacon accompanied Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire the same month on a trade mission to China.
NEI Director Courtney Gregoire, the Washington governor's daughter, last week said the federal government should include more port officials in overseas trade missions to help facilitate deals. ' Eric Kulisch