Los Angeles is undergoing a renaissance, and Mexico is playing an important part. With an array of diverse industries fueling its growth, LA County's GDP reached a staggering $707 billion last year. The LA Customs District is ranked as the nation's top hub for trade, with over $470 billion in total trade with the rest of the world in 2016. Combined with its tourism industry, Los Angeles is quickly securing its place as a global powerhouse.
The city's new developments are dependent on the strength of the local economy to sustain its appetite for talent and expansion, plus an openness to doing business with its nearby neighbor, Mexico.
In 2016, trade between Mexico and the United States reached $523 billion. In the same period, trade between Mexico and California accounted for $71.6 billion.
Last year over 80.9 million passengers went through LA International Airport, making LAX the second busiest airport in the United States. Furthermore, LA saw more than 47.3 million visitors who spent more than $21.9 billion during their stays in LA. Of those tourists, 7 million were from international markets, with Mexico as the leading source of our international visitors (over 1.757 million travelers from Mexico just last year), making it one of LA's most important global partners.
In 2016, trade between Mexico and the United States reached $523 billion. In the same period, trade between Mexico and California accounted for $71.6 billion. For LA Customs District, $2.7 billion worth of goods were traded between LA and Mexico in 2016, making Mexico LA's 26th largest trading partner. However, the data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau only tracked which ports of entry through which the commodities were processed, and not the final destinations of those products. According to a report by the Brookings Institution that tracked the ultimate destinations of trade commodities, total trade between LA and Mexico is actually closer to $14.9 billion, making Mexico LA's fifth largest trading partner.
Another important component of trade is foreign direct investment (FDI). In 2017, The World Trade Center Los Angeles and LAEDC produced a study on FDI, and documented over 4,682 Foreign Owned Establishments (FOE) in LA County have created over 212,000 jobs and contributed over $13.2 billion in annual wages for the local economy. Mexico is LA's 15th largest investor with over 254 Mexican companies supporting over 6,673 direct jobs and paying over $404 million in annual wages to local residents. The connection between Los Angeles and Mexico runs deep.
LA's economic relationship with Mexico spills into other parts of city life as well. An interesting cultural crossover between LA and Mexico is food. The cuisines of both regions have crossed geographic and gastronomic boundaries, and is transforming the culinary scene across the globe. A homegrown LA favorite, Panda Express, has recently taken Mexico by storm. Founded 34 years ago in Glendale, CA, Panda Express entered into a partnership with Grupo Gigante in 2014 to open more than 250 Panda Express fast-food restaurants throughout Mexico by 2021. Since the partnership, Panda Express has been serving as LA's culinary ambassador to Mexico through "Orange Chicken Diplomacy," bringing a bit of LA to every corner of Mexico.
The gastronomic influence goes both ways. Chef and Angeleno Roy Choi was influenced by the various tastes and foods that are readily found in Los Angeles. As a Korean-American immigrant growing up in LA, Choi was exposed to Mexican cooking that permeates the food scene in LA. In 2008, he fused the flavors of Mexico and Korea, transforming the culinary scene of Los Angeles and sparking the food truck movement. With delicacies such as the Spicy Pork Taco, Kimchi Quesadillas, and Short Rib Sliders, Choi's Kogi BBQ Truck created a global phenomenon that brought the people of Los Angeles closer together with Mexico and Korea - through taste buds.
Panda Express has been serving as LA's culinary ambassador to Mexico through "Orange Chicken Diplomacy," bringing a bit of LA to every corner of Mexico.
Whether it is through trade or food, plus familial and cultural ties, the deep connection between Los Angeles and Mexico is undeniable and undividable. Our pasts have influenced and defined how our people and economies have developed. Our futures will continue to rely and depend on each other.
Stephen Cheung is a Pacific Council member and president of the World Trade Center Los Angeles.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Pacific Council.