Chamber emphasizes free trade alliance, services marketing
By Paola Iuspa
From helping shape free-trade policies in Washington to developing alliances between Florida's service providers and companies worldwide, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce is determined to maintain a leadership role in positioning Florida as the commerce hub of the Americas.
The chamber's international services and international economic development and global affairs committees over the weekend produced goals that reaffirm the direction the groups have been taking for three years.
Co-chaired by Jose Rojas, a partner with Holland & Knight law firm, and Walter Revell, chairman and CEO of the H.J. Ross Associates Inc., the international services committee will continue its Florida export service program, organizing inbound and outbound missions to market information, technology and professional services. The only initiative in the US focusing on knowledge-based services is a product of Enterprise Florida, Mr. Rojas said, a private and public group in charge of promoting trade, and is being carried out through the chamber.
By bringing and taking delegations of professionals to cities in the Americas and Europe to promote their services, the group's effort has brought to South Florida about $400 million in projected and actual sales and investments since 1998, he said. It has also established partnerships with 67 organizations worldwide.
The service sector accounts for 78.1% of the state gross product, state records show.
It is in those trips that chamber officials and trade mission delegates establish ties with companies abroad and other chambers hoping to secure future clients. To continue with its policy, a trade mission to Hong Kong in late September and one to the United Kingdom in late April are moving forward, Mr. Revell said.
The Americas Linkage program, in which Florida delegations visit the same 14 cities in Latin America every year, will also continue.
The chamber's international services group hopes to launch a marketing campaign to increase statewide participation in the Florida Services Export program and to attract foreign interest in Florida's firms.
Getting Broward and Palm Beach counties involved in the program is another goal, as is increasing communication and collaboration with other statewide, national and international partners to promote trade and investment in Florida.
Although Gov. Jeb Bush last week allocated $400,000 for Enterprise Florida to use in the program, the committee set a goal for developing a funding strategy to assure the long-term sustainability and success of the chamber's effort.
Another goal will be to expand Floridaservicenet.com. The web site, which profiles Florida-based companies and categorizes more than 1,000 specialties in 26 major services, is free and aimed at helping those looking to hire professional services in the state. The committee members hope to have a web site that offers more content with a video-conferencing component by September.
Increasing involvement in the local, state and federal legislative processes also ranks high in challenges for the international economic development and global affairs committee.
Co-chaired by Antonio Villamil, CEO of The Washington Economics Group Inc., and Walter Loy, senior adviser in international affairs with J Poole Associates Inc. Realtors, the group will continue visiting Washington to support creation of a free trade agreement among the countries in the Americas, except for Cuba.
Mr. Villamil said the group would step up its lobbying efforts for Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority, which would give the president power to negotiate the trade agreement with the other nations by the 2005 self-imposed deadline. At that time, Congress' authority would be limited to accepting or rejecting the Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA, but not amending it.
The goal also calls for increasing efforts to bring the permanent FTAA headquarters to Miami in about four years.
The group is also committed to supporting efforts to expand and enhance the infrastructure needed to upgrade information technology, and help the Port of Miami and Miami International Airport secure a competitive movement of goods, services and passengers.
To make Miami more attractive to global companies by helping them relocate in a short time, committee members will work with the government to streamline regulations to fast track the local and state permitting process. The committee also will work to increase awareness and develop programs to promote trade with Africa, the Middle East and Asia.