Wells Fargo Securities said California's wholesale trade, transport and export industries have been big beneficiaries of the growing wealth of Asia and growing demand from other countries, such as Canada and Mexico.
Many of these important trading partners have an increasing appetite for California exports from software and computer technology to business equipment and agricultural exports. According to the California Chamber of Commerce, international-related commerce in the state supports about one-fourth of California's gross state product, said Scott Anderson, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, California exports to 226 foreign countries and exports from California accounted for about 11 percent of total U.S. exports in 2010.
Anderson said California was also the largest exporting state to Asia. In 2010, California exported $62 billion in goods to the region.
Anderson said shipments to Asia could slip, however, as economic growth slows in the region. China, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Singapore have all seen significant slowing in economic activity in recent months.
If Europe falls into recession, in part due to the sovereign debt crisis, California's export engine could be severely impaired for some time, said Anderson. California is also the largest state exporter to the European Union, suggesting significant exposure to a European recession.
The European Union constitutes about 17 percent of all California exports, led by categories such as computers, electronic products and transportation equipment.
Anderson said there were a number of initiatives on the trade agreement front that could give California exporters a much needed shot in the arm starting early next year that might be able to at least partially offset the dark clouds forming on the international trade front.
Anderson said the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement that was recently passed by the U.S. Congress has the potential to be an important support to California export activity, especially in southern California. South Korea comprises only 6.0 percent of California exports, but the potential increase in two-way trade could be a material boost for southern California ports.
According to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, nearly 50 percent of all U.S.-South Korean trade is handled by the port of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Two-way trade on a value basis between the Los Angeles Custom District and South Korea currently represents 30 percent of total U.S.-South Korea trade.
It was expected that all else being equal, the free trade agreement would boost U.S. exports of information technology machinery, electrical machinery, medical equipment, aircraft parts, chemicals, beef and cotton to South Korea, said Anderson.
For example, beef exports through the Los Angeles Custom District to South Korea have surged in recent years as barriers to trade were reduced by the South Korean government.
California's technology and entertainment industry would also benefit from better intellectual property protections and enforcement for film, software, music and videos, said Anderson.
Anderson said this agreement was expected to set the foundation and framework for an even broader Asian trade agreement, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), between the United States and nine other Pacific nations, including Japan.