In mid-June, Chinese paper trading company America Chung Nam Inc. (ACNI) signed a contract with ReCommunity to purchase recycled paper goods from Tucson, Arizona. ACNI hopes to export at least 100 ocean freight containers worth of recycled paper each week from Tucson, with estimates reaching as high as 400 a week. Once the shipment reaches China, it is then supplied to paper mills and made into new paper for shipment all over the world.
This new deal will serve as an economic boost to Tucson, as local importers will be able to save on time, money, and energy. In the past, local businesses were forced to drive their imported goods from California’s sea ports and eventually truck the empty ocean containers back to California—a road trip that was time-consuming and costly. As part of the deal with ACNI, the Chinese company has agreed to pay for the entire return journey by rail from Tucson’s new dry port if the containers are filled with their purchased recycled paper. This will eliminate additional costs for local businesses and increase their overall competitiveness. As Stefan Baumann, director of business development for the Port of Tucson, stated, “The problem—which is a great problem to have—is we need to produce more empty containers for them […] Importers are happy to see this option. Instead of having to pay a driver to make the trip to California, it’s now a local drive.”
This deal is just one example of the impact that Asia has had on the region’s economic development. In 2013, for instance, the Port of Tucson’s first railroad export was a local shipment of pet food headed for Osaka, Japan. In 2012, 24% of total exports from Arizona’s 2nd congressional district—which includes parts of Tucson—went to Asia, with a total of $200 million dollars worth of exports sent to China and Japan combined. ACNI’s new deal with Tucson will grow those figures even further.
Andy Nguyen is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a graduate student at Georgetown University.