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Report: Houston's Strong International Ties Better Position Regional Economy for Global Economic Headwinds

Published May 12, 2023 by Brina Morales

Global Houston 2023 cover page

HOUSTON — Houston’s trade ties with its global partners have largely recovered from the impacts of the pandemic, according to the Greater Houston Partnership’s latest Global Houston report

The analysis documents how Houston’s international activity in 2022 continued to set records:

  • The Houston-Galveston Customs District continues to rank first in the country in tonnage handled (exports and imports) with over 382.8 million metric tons.
  • For the first time in history, the Houston-Galveston Customs District ranked first in total value with $372.6 billion, which typically ranks second behind Los Angeles/Long Beach.
  • Exports topped $191.8 billion, well above the previous record of $140.8 billion set in 2021.
  • Foreign direct investment (FDI) is back at pre-pandemic levels and continues accelerating. The Partnership documented 44 business expansions from companies headquartered overseas in 2022, up from 33 in 2021. In 2020, only 13 non-U.S. firms announced plans to expand or relocate operations in the region.
  • International migration surged to 47,400, accounting for the largest share (38%) of the region’s population growth in 2022.
  • International air traffic continues to edge closer to pre-pandemic levels. The Houston Airport System handled 10.4 million international passengers in 2022, up from 7.3 million in 2021 but still below the pre-COVID peak of 12.0 million in 2020. 
  • The Port of Houston set a record for container traffic, handing nearly 3.2 million loaded TEUs (twenty-foot-equivalent units), a 17.9% increase over 2021.

“The international metrics demonstrate Houston’s ties global economy continues to strengthen, positioning the region for continued growth despite global economic headwinds,” Partnership Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Research Patrick Jankowski said.

According to the report, the ongoing war in Ukraine, persistent inflation, and rising interest rates are key factors that continue to be speedbumps to growth but are not considered outright obstacles.

“Any slowdown caused by macro forces will likely impact Houston only marginally,” Jankowski said. “Houston’s economy will continue to expand, create jobs, and attract new residents to the region.”
Other data included in the report reflects Houston’s influence as a global business hub: 

  • Houston has trading relationships with more than 200 countries.
  • The value of exports via the district has exceeded imports every year since 2013.
  • Over 1,700 foreign-owned firms have an office, factory, distribution, or service center in Houston. 
  • Nearly 150 Houston-headquartered companies operated subsidiaries outside the U.S. 

Another section of the Global Houston report provides additional statistics and information about Houston’s international business ties and ranks the region’s top 20 trade partners. The value of goods and services traded increased among all leading partners in 2022, continuing the trend of growth.

Top 10 Houston trade partners and the value of trade in 2022: 

  1. Mexico -- $32.1 billion, up from $21.6 billion in 2021.
  2. China -- $31.9 billion, up from $24.8 billion in 2021. 
  3. South Korea -- $24.6 billion, up from $16.2 billion in 2021. 
  4. Brazil -- $20.1 billion, up from $16.8 billion in 2021. 
  5. Netherlands -- $19.1 billion, up from $13.4 billion in 2021. 
  6. United Kingdom -- $16.4 billion, up from $9.9 billion in 2021.
  7. India -- $15.7 billion, up from $13.9 billion in 2021.
  8. Germany -- $15.0 billion, up from $12.0 billion in 2021.
  9. Japan -- $14.4 billion, up from $11.5 billion in 2021.
  10. Singapore -- $13.6 billion, up from $5.9 billion in 2021.

View the trade profiles report here


Greater Houston Partnership 
The Greater Houston Partnership works to make Houston one of the best places to live, work and build a business. As the economic development organization for the region, the Partnership champions growth across 12 counties by bringing together business and civic-minded leaders who are dedicated to the area’s long-term success. Representing more than 950 member organizations and approximately one-fifth of the region’s workforce, the Partnership is the place companies come together to make an impact. Learn more at



Brina Morales                                                
Director, Communications      
(c) 832-287-5089             

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