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What this $1.47B California bridge means for U.S. trade

Mario Cordero, Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach, joins Yahoo Finance as the new Gerald Desmond bridge gets ready to open.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Let's talk about the state of trade in this country with other countries, because they've just completed a very important project in Long Beach, California. So we invite into the stream, Mario Cordero, Port Director of Long Beach in California. And I always get this metric wrong, but correct me. Is Long Beach, it's the largest by volume port in the United States? I know it's top five. And this new bridge, a roughly $1.5 billion project, is going to allow for even more efficient transfer of incoming manufacturing products, correct?

MARIO CORDERO: That's correct, Adam. Long Beach is part of the nation's largest port complex, the San Pedro Bay Port complex. So yeah, the port complex is the largest container gateway in the nation.

ADAM SHAPIRO: And this new bridge that's opening, the Gerald Desmond Bridge. Without getting too technical here, in the past, you had to wait for low tide to bring the ships in. You won't have to wait anymore. So what will that do as far as the shipping of trade between different countries and the United States?

MARIO CORDERO: Well, you're correct. The old bridge had a restriction of a 155-foot water clearance. The new replacement bridge, that clears now is 205 feet. So we are compared to the receive some of the larger vessels in the world come to the back channel of Long Beach. And again, it's an iconic structure, not only just for Long Beach and the region, and for that matter, state of California, it's iconic for the nation, in terms of what that impact is to the economy.

JULIE HYMAN: Marty, I also wanted to, it's Julie here. Thanks for joining us. I want to ask you about traffic, what it has been like. I mean, shipping is certainly a good economic indicator. So how have you seen the trajectory of traffic change during this pandemic? And what's the recovery been like?

MARIO CORDERO: Well, that trajectory has been uncertain, Julie. We began the year very problematic because of not only the trade war impact, in addition, the COVID-19 impact. Now, having said that, the last couple of months we've had some positive numbers here at the Port of Long Beach. That does represent that in fact, there's consumer spending that has escalated in this economy. However, I want to make clear, what goes forward is uncertain. Because it's certainly been up and down. But the good news for us right now, we have seen some elevated numbers.

EMILY MCCORMICK: When you speak about these elevated numbers though, what specifically are you seeing on the rise here? You talked a little bit about manufacturing parts, various goods. I mean, just taking a look at the macro data, we did have the US goods trade deficit in August, at least, widening to a record. So I'm curious what that recovery specifically looks like by product type.

MARIO CORDERO: Well, I think what you're seeing in COVID era, is a large influx of electronics. I mean, if you just look at the situation that we're in virtually, and every educational institution has moved quickly to obtain laptops. I mean, that alone has a tremendous increase in terms of the overall electronic demand by the consumers.

When you talk about household goods. Now it's more about outside furniture. So all these goods come again, are imported goods from Asia. And as you know, Long Beach is very much positioned geographically as the gateway that closely [? approximates ?] the most important trade region for this nation, which is Asia. And of course, right here, the most important trade route, the Trans-pacific trade route.

RICK NEWMAN: Hey, Mario, Rick Newman here. I want to pick up on that. There's so much going on, that we've kind of forgot about the trade war with China, but that's far from over. So could you just tell us what the trend lines are in terms of imports and exports related to China? How they compare with a year ago, two years ago, and whether they seem back to anything that looks like normal?

MARIO CORDERO: Well, Rick there certainly have been an impact. And the fact remains that as of today, tariffs remain on $370 billion worth of goods from China. So it impacts imports. That impacts exports. So I think again, when we talk about electronics, we're seeing a lot of the increase in what comes in from South Korea. So it's been problematic in terms of not only the uncertainty here, but of course, the movement of that trade, whether it's from China or moving to other countries in Asia or Southeast Asia.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Mario Cordero is Port of Long Beach Executive Director, and we appreciate you joining us here "On the Move."