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Start spreading the news: Big trade with the Big Apple

N.Y. is our largest commercial partner

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The Brooklyn Bridge stretches in front of the Manhattan skyline. Winnipeg does US$330 million in bilateral trade with the New York City area, including New Jersey and Long Island, each year.

SETH WENIG / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

The Brooklyn Bridge stretches in front of the Manhattan skyline. Winnipeg does US$330 million in bilateral trade with the New York City area, including New Jersey and Long Island, each year.

WASHINGTON -- New York might be nearly 2,750 kilometres away from Winnipeg, but it represents the Manitoba capital's most lucrative trade relationship south of the border.

Winnipeg has US$330 million worth of bilateral trade every year with New York, New Jersey and Long Island, a new report from the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution states.

Chicago and the surrounding area are next on the Washington-based non-profit research house's list at US$276 million, followed by Detroit and its surrounding area at US$234 million.

Joseph Parilla, a research analyst at Brookings, said the size of a city's economy is more important than its proximity to trading partners. The regional economy of New York City, for example, is worth more than $1 trillion. There's no way Grand Forks or Fargo can compete with that.

So, what do Winnipeg companies send to the Big Apple and other American cities? Machinery and tools are the top export category at US$1.2 billion annually, followed by agricultural products (US$644 million), chemicals and plastics (US$546 million), motor vehicles and parts (US$250 million) and electronics (US$43 million).

Parilla said companies can boost their exports by focusing on specific cities and regions in the U.S. It's easier and less intimidating to break it down into smaller markets than look at the country as a whole.

"The U.S. is so big, you can't really have a U.S. strategy. You have to have a regional strategy. You might have a strong industry overlap with a particular city. You'd want to locate in Chicago to access the Midwest or Los Angeles for the West Coast," he said.

Winnipeg companies send nearly US$3.6 billion worth of goods to the U.S. every year, while importing US$4.9 billion.

Parilla said companies are better able to understand the location of supply chains if they focus their efforts on particular metropolitan areas.

"Cities were the next level of specificity that made sense. We think the economy clusters at a regional level, and that provides a good proxy for how firms are behaving. We think leaders in these places should see their own profile. They should have this information so they can have more tailored economic strategies," he said.

The goal of boosting your exports requires an understanding of what you trade and with whom, he said.

"The first step is data, then you figure out where you're strong and where you're deficient. Then you use that information to make smart investments based on that, whether it's in education or infrastructure," he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 28, 2014 B6

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