Officials of Chinese city may open trade office here
By Claudio Mendonça
Miami-Dade County may become home to a trade-promotion office and distribution center for Tianjin, China.
Tianjin, 80 miles west of Beijing, is China's third-largest city with 10 million residents and is one of the country's most important manufacturing centers.
On Monday, a four-person delegation representing the Tianjin Economic Development Area visited Greater Miami to look at facilities. One of the sites of interest to the group is the Miami Free Zone in Doral.
"We want to explore opportunities and use Miami as a trade center for logistics and delivery for Latin America and the Caribbean," said Zhang Jun, vice chairman of the Tianjin group. "But first we want to learn and gather information so we can first give information to companies back in China."
Miami-Dade would become Tianjin's fifth US trade site after New York, Chicago, Houston and San Jose, CA.
In addition to developing South Florida as a hub, the Chinese want to utilize the Miami Free Zone as a platform to the US market.
"We have lots of enterprises that have interest in coming to Greater Miami for Latin America and the Caribbean. We are already trying to attract current clients," Mr. Zhang said.
He said that while Latin America is far from being China's largest trade partner, that could change.
Mr. Zhang said he hopes that in the "very short term, officials from that country can make a decision. We are still learning a lot of the Miami Free Zone. We are still collecting information to bring back to enterprises in China."
County Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz, head of Miami-Dade's International Trade Consortium, led a delegation on a 15-day trip to Asia that included Tianjin in March.
Mr. Diaz said the Chinese are still learning about free-trade rules in the US. "Every free zone has different sets of rules even though concept is the same," he said. "It is a different set of customs. They have to analyze and see feasibility. We are hoping representatives from Tianjin can settle in as permanent residents."
Miami Free Zone President Ralph Gazitua, who was on the March trip to China, said Monday that he was so impressed with Tianjin's robust economy that he is planning to return to the Far East to create more operations.
"Visiting was a humbling experience," he said. "It is a trade zone equaling a city the size of Coral Gables with 250,000 employees and 4,000 companies. We can have mutual benefits in the future."
Members of the Chinese delegation also met this week with Port of Miami and Miami International Airport officials and members of the Beacon Council.
With 42 Fortune 500 companies in Tianjin, Mr. Zhang said, 80% of the region's exports come from US, European and Asian investments. US companies account for one-third of Tianjin's total investments, he said, and include Motorola, Caterpillar and Honeywell.
"Hopefully, we can help Tianjin redistribute products to smaller markets in Latin America and the Caribbean," said Gary Goldfarb, executive director of the Miami Free Zone. "We see what an amazing job Tianjin is doing."