Japan quake slows trade through Portland

Japan quake slows trade through Portland

Japan quake slows trade through Portland

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by Joe Smith

Bio | Email | Follow: @JoeSmithKGW

kgw.com

Posted on March 15, 2011 at 6:49 AM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 16 at 5:16 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- From wheat , wood products, food and hundreds of thousands of autos, the Port of Portland and the Port of Vancouver are important trading partners with Japan.

Still in utter chaos, it's impossible to know the true economic impact of the disaster in Japan.

"Japan is the third largest economy in the world behind China and the United States," said Pil Hwang, Senior Vice President with The Phillips Company in Portland.

What happens in Japan has global impact according to Hwang.

"Any disruption in their economy could have a ripple effect with imports and exports," Hwang said.

As one of the Northwest's largest trading partners, local importers and exporters are concerned.

"Our main concern, I think is the disruption of food chain supplies," noted Keith Lee, President of Chin's Imports-Exports.

While most of his shipments come out of China, they stop at Japanese ports before heading to Terminal 6 here. Lee worries about a meltdown threat at a Japanese nuclear plant.

"Obviously we're concerned about contamination, radiation contaminating the food chain," said Lee.

Other impacts, while too early to assess, could mean disruptions in the coming weeks, especially for Japanese auto imports.  Hundreds of thousand of Honda's and Toyota's pass through the Port of Portland yearly.

"Right now there's a infrastructure disruption, they can't get the cars on to the ships to bring to the Unites States," said Lee.

For the time being Toyota is suspending production at all of it's plants in Japan.

At the Port of Vancouver, in addition to importing Subaru's, wheat is one of the Ports biggest exports. 3.7 million metric tons a year mostly to Japan.

"At this point we're hearing that it will be neutral to maybe a very slight downturn,but we're still waiting to here," said Theresa Wagner, Communications Manager for the Port of Vancouver.

That is an economic impact that could take weeks to assess and much more time to recover from.

"We're going to be seeing some impact for a while," Wagner said.

For local companies doing business in Japan their first priority is employee safety.
Intel has 300 working in Tokyo. Two buildings there have been evacuated because of damage.

Nike is still assessing the impact. Both companies indicate all employees are safe and so far, the quake and tsunami have had no impact on operations here.

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