With its busy ports, large immigrant population and history of manufactured and cultural exports, Los Angeles has become the country’s most international city in several key measures.

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“Los Angeles is a global capital, a cardinal point on the international compass,” says Abraham Lowenthal, director of USC’s Center for International Studies and president of the Pacific Council on International Policy.
With Pacific Council fellow Michael Brownrigg and research assistant Thomas Vest, Lowenthal looked at trade figures and economic forecasts reported by port and economic development officers. They found that in 1994, the Los Angeles Customs District – which encompasses the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles and Hueneme, Los Angeles International Airport and McCarran Field – surpassed New York to become the nation’s largest customs district for imports and exports.
By 1995, transactions through the Los Angeles Customs District had grown to $164 billion, accounting for one-eighth of all U.S. foreign trade. Even considering inflation, that amount represents a four-fold increase over 20 years ago.
Los Angeles’ biggest trading partner is Asia, which over the past decade has provided more than four-fifths of all imports to and three-quarters of all exports from the Los Angeles Customs District.
“International trade is one of the driving forces in the Southern California economy and one of the main contributors to the region’s enormous growth over the past 25 years,” Lowenthal says.
People as well as goods move into and out of Los Angeles. International travel accounts for 25 percent of the traffic going through Los Angeles International Airport, and international visitors – chiefly tourists – pumped $3.3 billion into the region’s economy last year, they found. Los Angeles County hosts the largest number of foreign students (21,314 in 1995) of any U.S. county, followed by New York (18,477). Southern California is home to more foreign-born residents than any other region of the country, accounting for 22 percent of the nation’s immigrant population.
“Immigrants are a source of strong commercial links between their adopted communities and their home countries,” says Brownrigg, an officer in the U.S. State Department.
The world may leave an indelible imprint on Los Angeles, but Los Angeles – especially Hollywood – also leaves an undeniable mark on the world. In 1994, Hollywood-based film distribution companies grossed more than $4 billion from domestic box office receipts, but more than $5 billion from overseas markets.
U.S.-originated television programming accounts for around one-half of all the world’s imported television programs, and U.S.-made movies generate about 80 percent of official box office revenues in countries where American movies are shown.
“Largely as a result of its overseas connections, Holly-wood added 26,800 area jobs between 1994 and 1995, which represents a 13 percent rise in this sector’s employment during a year when domestic theatrical box office revenues in the U.S. grew by only 0.4 percent,” Brownrigg says.

Hollywood Overseas
Hollywood-based films grossed over $5 billion from overseas box office receipts. Between 1994 and 1995, Hollywood added 26,800 area jobs,which represents a 13% rise in this sector’s employment.

Visitors and Travelers
International travel accounts for 25% of the traffic at LAX. In 1996, foreign visitors pumped $3.3 billion into the region’s economy. Los Angeles County hosted 21,314 foreign students in 1995.

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