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Friday, Sep 29, 2023

Oped #1


For more than a decade, Los Angeles boosters have talked up the value of L.A.’s unique position on the Pacific Rim. We are a gateway, the new Rome for the global economy, North America’s bridge to Asia, Latin America and Oceania. Until now, the manifest benefits of this role have been perceived as local jobs, opportunities and cultural diversity.

But now, we are learning something else. L.A.’s role in the Pacific Rim economy is just as meaningful to the nations of Asia as it is to Southern Californians.

A fascinating signal of the global importance of Los Angeles to Pacific Rim trade was sent late last year, when the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines passed a resolution in support of the LAX Master Plan Los Angeles World Airports’ long-range, multi-disciplinary plan to guide LAX’s development through the year 2010.

The AAPA represents 19 airlines that together account for 35 percent of all international passengers at LAX some 5 million passengers a year. The association represents major aviation players like Cathay Pacific Airways, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Quantas.

Forty percent of these airlines’ flights to the United States 140 weekly passenger flights and 73 weekly cargo flights went through LAX. That’s twice as many cargo flights, and four times as many passenger flights, as the next most-used airport by AAPA members.

For these Asian nations and their airlines, LAX is by far the most important gateway to the United States, and thus it is a matter of intense interest to them. Asian and Pacific airlines regard LAX as the most open, free-market-oriented airport in the United States when compared with other facilities dominated by one or two “hub” carriers.

The future of LAX should be just as important to Southern Californians as it is to airlines based in Asia. Despite concern about economic troubles in Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and other Asian nations, it is important not to lose sight of the bigger economic picture. And that picture shows that despite their economic problems, the countries of the Pacific Rim remain the United States’ biggest and fastest-growing trading partners. U.S. trade with Asia is 50 percent greater than its trade with Europe; nearly 62 percent of America’s exports go to the Asia-Pacific region.

Much of this trade passes through Los Angeles, which has become the largest international trading center in the United States. The U.S. Customs District office for Los Angeles handles more than $186 billion in goods annually.

LAX plays a critical role in this commerce. One hundred percent of the international air cargo that comes to or goes from Los Angeles passes through LAX; that added up to 1.7 million tons in 1994 and a projected 4.2 million tons by 2015.

In 1996, nearly 58 million passengers arrived at LAX. Transpacific air traffic to and from the United States has grown 33 percent over the past five years. Tourism and business travel are growing. By the year 2010, nearly 50 percent of all international passengers worldwide will be from Asia-Pacific nations. From my experience, many of these travelers are shuttling back and forth between business operations in Asia and Southern California.

It is clear that El Ni & #324;o is not the only dramatic story from the Pacific Ocean; from the perspective of Los Angeles, it looks like the Pacific is rapidly shrinking.

In its resolution, the AAPA noted that “there are economic benefits to the U.S. and countries in Asia Pacific in addressing the increasing passenger traffic and the dramatic growth in cargo demand propelled by the burgeoning business activity in fast-growing Asia-Pacific countries.” For the Los Angeles region to maintain its position as the premier port of entry for international air cargo and air travel, LAX must be modernized to meet the needs of the fast-paced global economy.

C.K. Tseng is president of Northridge Travel Service and a former delegate to the White House Conference on Travel & Tourism.

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