Business

Governor Looks to Bulk Up Florida's Exports on Colombia Trade Mission

By: Jim Turner | Posted: November 19, 2012 2:00 PM

Colombia and Rick Scott

Aerial view of Bogota, Colombia, left, and Gov. Rick Scott, right

Shortly after taking office, Gov. Rick Scott recalled meeting with then-Colombia President Álvaro Uribe during a summit in Miami.

One thing that stuck out from their conversation was that Florida and the United States were missing business opportunities at the time by not have a long-negotiated free-trade agreement in place, Scott said.

“(Uribe) told me Florida was losing out because they were building relationship with other countries,” Scott told reporters earlier this month.

Since that meeting with Uribe, the USA-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement that was first written in 2006 finally made it through Congress in October 2011.

Now Scott, the Sunshine State’s self-appointed marketing agent, is preparing to bring the Florida brand to the South American country in early December. Scott is to head a delegation with Enterprise Florida that will be about 160 strong to the Sunshine State’s second largest trading partners, with two-way trade topping more than $9 billion a year.

“With the free-trade agreement now in effect, we believe it will enhance Florida trade significantly, providing a boost to our exports to Colombia,” said Manny Mencía, who heads Enterprise Florida’s international trade division. “Without the need to pay tariffs to export our state’s goods to growing economies like Colombia’s, Florida companies can invest more of their funds into job creation.”  

The trade mission entourage is scheduled to have meetings with current Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos and Colombia Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Sergio Diaz-Granados Guida, along with the American Chamber of Commerce in Colombia and the Council of American Enterprises board of directors.

The trade mission will be Scott’s seventh since taking office in January 2011, with prior trips to Brazil, Panama, Canada, England, Spain and Israel.

During an appearance in October on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Scott countered a question that the Enterprise Florida trade missions haven’t resulted in significant deals for Florida.

“I call on business people, I promote business,” Scott said. “You got to do the right things, follow the laws and follow the rules and all those things, but I want you in Florida.”

“You can criticize there haven't been a lot of significant substantial trade deals federally. Look how long it took to get the free-trade agreements with South Korea and Colombia.”

As with the Colombia deal, the U.S. trade deal with South Korea took more than half a decade to get congressional approval.

The chance to transport more imports and exports is why a number of those that have agreed to pay the $500 to $900 fee to be part of the trade mission are from industries linked to shipping: JaxPort, Florida East Coast Railway, Port Manatee, Port Everglades, PortMiami, Tampa Port Authority, Ports America and the Florida Ports Council.

“We should be in a better position than almost any state in the country doing international trade,” Scott said. “We’re a peninsula. We’re clearly the gateway to Latin America. We’ve got the second most number of foreign banks.  

A big part of the talks with South American nations has been bulking up maritime trade, and building up Florida’s seaports in anticipation of the completion of the widening of the Panama Canal in 2015.

Currently 20 percent of the shipping through the canal lands in Florida, Scott noted.

“We’ve got 14 seaports,” Scott said. “No state is better positioned. California hurt itself with regulations and taxes.”



Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.



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