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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

October 15, 2009 at 9:00 AM

Ports of Seattle and Tacoma planning for tougher competition

Top of the News: The Great Recession has only strengthened China’s position as an exporting powerhouse and its economy may be stabilizing, if not recovering, faster than elsewhere. But will Puget Sound ports be well positioned in the big reset?

It’s a concern that dominated a joint meeting of the port commissions of Seattle and Tacoma earlier this week. Economist John Martin offered a shipping industry overview that port officials called “sobering.” New competition from Prince Rupert, B.C., a widened Panama Canal and improvements to the Suez Canal will seriously challenge the older West Coast ports.

Seattle and Tacoma port officials promised to work more closely on joint promotion, transportation infrastructure projects and continuing the environmentally friendly “green gateway” theme. There’s a natural competition between the two Puget Sound ports. But changes to global shipping should focus minds on Ben Franklin’s axiom about hanging together or hanging separately.

Meanwhile, the ports’ biggest customer, China, saw its export decline slow to 15.2 percent in September vs. the same month a year before. Imports lost only 4 percent.Commodity imports rose last month. This is remarkable given the slack demand in the U.S., and partly shows China’s ability to find new markets for exports.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Small banks, big losses

Draining the FDIC

See? We owe, we owe

Comments | More in Ports of Seattle and Tacoma

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