Aucoin: Dialogue needed for trade success

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, July 4, 2018

On June 21, the Port of South Louisiana, co-sponsored by the World Trade Center of New Orleans, welcomed representatives of the European Union. Among the countries represented by the 20 delegates were Bulgaria, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Latvia, Croatia and the Czech Republic.

The delegates were in Louisiana for a regional two-day tour that mainly focused on issues relating to EU-U.S. trade. During their visit, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, LSU AgCenter Food Business Incubator Food Scientist and Pilot Plant Manager Dr. Marvin Moncada and I provided overviews of their respective endeavors.

I opened the event by welcoming the delegates and conducting an overview presentation about the Port of South Louisiana and the benefits of partnering with the port. The Port’s particular connection between foreign cargo and the U.S. inland water system provides the most economical transportation in the world.

The Port of South Louisiana’s superior location along the Mississippi River and vast inland transportation network allows manufacturers to import raw materials and export finished products throughout the world easily and affordably.

The competitive advantage of shipping to the Port of South Louisiana rather than Atlantic- or Pacific-coast ports is clear. The shipping cost per TEU from China to Chicago is less than half when routed via the Port of South Louisiana, according to a feasibility study by AECOM.

That advantage is what makes the Port of South Louisiana the 16th largest tonnage port in the world, the largest tonnage port in the Western Hemisphere and the No. 1 grain exporter in the nation, shipping to over 90 countries.

Commissioner Strain followed.

“The United States and the European Union have the largest bilateral trade and investment relationship and enjoy the most integrated economic relationship in the world,” Strain said. “The total U.S. investment in the EU is three times higher than in all of Asia. It’s very important that we continue to establish a trade initiative. Trade is key to America’s prosperity.”

Strain also highlighted the economic impact Louisiana has on international trading (i.e., importing and exporting goods). For instance, the global impact of Louisiana exports is $8.3 billion in agriculture-related products. The state’s top trade partners are China, Japan, Colombia, Mexico and the Netherlands, with Canada as No. 1, according to Strain.

Rising export products from Louisiana are soybean and sugar cane, with rice continuing to be popular. The U.S. exports the majority of soybean planted in 1.2 billion acres, Strain said, with soybean exports surpassing corn for the first time in U.S. history. Other notable export products from Louisiana include chicken, crawfish and timber.

Dr. Moncada presented information about the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator program, specializing in developing emerging food ventures, providing technical services to existing and emerging companies and promoting sustainable economic development.

The program was established in July 2013 and has helped 108 food products come to market to date, including hot sauces, chocolates, salad dressings and gelato flavors. Moncada encouraged the delegates to consider future partnerships with the Food Incubator program at LSU, noting that partnerships are open to anyone worldwide.

To the EU, trade with the U.S. is vital. The transatlantic economy is the largest and wealthiest market in the world, accounting for 50 percent world’s value GDP and 30 percent of world trade. The U.S. exports $495 billion of goods and services to the EU and, in turn, the EU exports $597 billion to the U.S.

During the visit, Jesus Zorrilla, Minister of Agriculture for the EU delegation, conveyed the importance of open dialogue to hash out trade issues, the necessity of working together to enhance trade between the EU and the U.S., acknowledging the successes achieved from these trade relations.

“Ports are essential points of entry into the U.S. We hope that our relations will improve, that our products will be sold, and that trade can increase in both directions over the coming years,” Zorrilla said.

Paul Aucoin is executive director of the Port of South Louisiana. For more information, call 985-652-9278.