A Chinese enclave called pivotal to Far East trade
By Suzy Valentine
Establishing a Chinese enclave in Miami-Dade County is imperative to building an Asian community and generating trade with the Far East, says County Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz.
A businessman whose name he didn't disclose offered to work with the county on an initiative in April, when a trade delegation from Tianjin visited, Mr. Diaz said.
There have been no developments since.
"It has been a dream of mine for some time," Mr. Diaz said. "The problem has been identifying a property. We need commercial as well as residential space, and we're still looking."
The county could learn from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, he said. "Every major gateway town has a strong Asian community. The concept is already being developed in Broward County."
In October, US Capital Holdings purchased Fashion Mall in Plantation for almost $40 million with plans to transform it into an Asian shopping complex.
At the beginning of the year, leasing agent Robert Listokin of Colliers Arnold said the buyer planned to add living accommodations. "I know it intends to build a couple of condos on front of the building. It's also looking for a new tenant for the Lord & Taylor unit."
Representatives for US Capital and its management company were unavailable.
Mr. Diaz said he is confident about trade between the county and the Far East. In the year ended Sept. 30, China and Hong Kong accounted for a combined 1.2 million tons of imports -13.7% of all imports - through the Port of Miami.
"Jobs depend upon those international partnerships," he said. "This forms the economic backbone of this community. Asian businesses are becoming more important to the county and will do so in the future."
Another of the county's champions of trade said he fears Asian companies will eventually bypass the US to trade with Latin America directly.
"China is a major threat to the US commercially, particularly as it relates to trade with Latin America," said George Foyo, president of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. "China is investing heavily in Brazil, Panama and the Bahamas."
Mr. Foyo explained why the two regions are hooking up. "China has a shortage of energy, so countries such as Brazil provide it with alternative sources of manufacturing of energy-intensive products such as steel," he said. "China is looking to Latin America and has been very open about it."
"That's already happening," Mr. Diaz said, "but it's our job to increase the traffic, whether it's trade or tourism."
"The US trade with the region will suffer in time," Mr. Foyo said. "This is why free-trade agreements are so important. This is why the Central American Free Trade Agreement matters - ecause it helps to solidify the relationships, not only at a commercial but also at a political level, with these countries.
"It doesn't leave the door open for China to walk in and take advantage of that weakness that will exist if these agreements don't take place."
The Latin American and Caribbean Studies Network on Asia-Pacific is to consider some of the issues when delegates meet in Buenos Aires in October. Mr. Diaz said a similar summit in Asia in the fall will review potential impact of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas.
"I think eventually, China will bypass the US," Mr. Foyo said, "if it can divert trade that now occurs between Latin America and the US to Latin America and China."
He said he understands why China will eventually cut the US out of the equation. "I think it's in its interests to do that, particularly because there is a shortage of raw materials and energy. I think textiles could be a threat, and there are many areas in which China could over time divert trade between the US and Latin America.
"We have to counteract that threat," he said. "It's not going to happen overnight, but the more proactive the US is in foreign policies toward Latin America, the more we can protect our current trade in the region."
Hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers entered countries such as Peru in the mid-1800s to work on sugar plantations and at fertilizer production facilities.