First joint trade mission aims to make South Florida the link to Asia
By Susan Stabley
and Tiffany Miller
Economic development leaders are taking global steps to strengthen Greater Miami as a platform for Asian business interests in Latin America.
A March trip to China, Hong Kong and Singapore will be the first joint mission for the county's trade consortium and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
For the Jay Malina International Consortium of Miami-Dade County, it will be an opportunity to encourage movement of merchandise through local sea and air ports, said the center's executive director, Tony Ojeda, and take advantage of the Asian nations' increased interest in Latin America.
The International Trade Consortium's focus is to foster and promote trade. Mr. Ojeda said he wants to increase the exchange of electronics, gifts, housewares, toys, sporting goods, timepieces, jewelry, optical goods and telecommunications equipment.
The Asian mission, he said, will also highlight South Florida services such as architecture, construction, engineering, biomedical engineering, information technology, financial and legal services, trade support and logistics plus travel and tourism.
The mission's breakthrough trip will send business leaders to Singapore from March 5-9, Hong Kong March 9-12 and Shanghai March 12-16.
County Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz and Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Isilio Arriaga will lead the trip.
This will be the chamber's first mission to Asia, according to Isabel Davila, chamber economic development director. She said the chamber had planned a mission to leave Sept. 11, 2001, but the day's terrorism attacks on the US forced a cancellation.
"We're really looking to re-establishing those connections," Ms. Davila said.
She said the chamber is also hoping to promote both goods and services.
"Hong Kong and Florida have very similar economies," she said. "It could be a gateway to Asia."
About 30 people can attend and openings remain. The cost will be $3,100, including transportation, hotels and meals.
Mr. Ojeda warns that the trip, with 12-hour work days, is not for the weak or slightly interested business person.
"Three Asian cities in 11 days? It's a killer," he said. "Anyone interested for fun or sightseeing, this is not for them. This is a serious business mission."
Participants will be matched with counterparts in each city.
The March trip follows a county mission last year. Officials in the Far East were very receptive to Miami-Dade officials, Mr. Ojeda said.
"We found a tremendous interest in Hong Kong and Singapore in developing closer financial ties to Miami," he said. "Now we are adding Shanghai, the biggest city in South China for trading and manufacturing."
Not only was last year's the first official trip Miami-Dade representatives had made to Asia in Mr. Ojeda's memory, but he said they were the first US delegation to arrive after the SARS disease panic.
"After SARS, they were very happy to see us," he said. "We got an incredible reception."
This year's trip also follows the signing of a free trade agreement between the US and Singapore.
Mr. Ojeda said the county plans to continue its "gateway" role. "Just as Singapore and Hong Kong are a gateway to Asia and China, Miami is a gateway to South and Central America and the Caribbean," he said. "If you want to do business in Latin America, you want to do business in Miami. Come to Miami."
Details: (305) 375-5808.