Chamber, county delegates to lobby in Washington
By Suzy Valentine
Business leaders and politicians were to strike a one-two punch to federal government this week as separate delegations from Miami-Dade converged on Washington, DC.
A 15-member contingent from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce headed to the capital Tuesday for two days of meetings that coincided with a visit from seven representatives of county government.
The chamber group included 11 executives and four staff members who were to focus lobbying efforts on free trade, immigration and transportation.
They were to meet with the congressional delegation and representatives of the Office of the US Trade Representative, the US Chamber of Commerce and the US departments of commerce, state and homeland security.
Facilitating the free movement of people and goods remained priorities in the talks, said the head of the chamber's federal committee, who was unable to join the delegation.
"Hemispheric trade issues remain key," said Lee Sandler, a partner in Miami law firm Sandler Travis and Rosenberg who had business commitments in Los Angeles this week. "The delegation will discuss the status of negotiations on free trade, in particular DR-CAFTA and efforts to bring the Free Trade Area of the Americas here. A dialog on the Americas is critical.
"We continue to be very concerned about immigration," said Mr. Sandler, "particularly the consular processing of visas and the whole impact on investors. Post-9/11 security issues have sent out a whole raft of ripple effects."
Topical among security concerns likely to pervade talks was the proposed involvement of an Arab entity in operations at the Port of Miami. Dubai Ports World could have a stake in running the seaport if Congress grants approval after 45 days of hearings.
While the chamber didn't have anything on the table for consideration, county representatives were expected to raise the issue.
"Talks on the matter aren't scheduled," Mr. Sandler said, "but the subject is likely to be mentioned."
The head of the chamber's advocacy group concurred.
"It may come up," said Tony Villamil, CEO of The Washington Economics Group, "but the chamber hasn't taken a position on the issue. The matter is now the subject of a review. Our role is to inform the membership and not to take a position."
Conversely, county commission Chairman Joe Martinez told the commission Feb. 23 that members of the Miami-Dade delegation would have an opportunity to voice concerns during the visit.
The two advocacy groups were to join forces on at least one topic, Mr. Villamil said. "The chamber group is teaming up with the county on transportation issues," he said. "One meeting will be dedicated to operations at Miami International Airport."
Cooperation between the groups should have a multiplier effect, said one participant.
"It's just smart to double our efforts," said publicist Seth Gordon, who joined the chamber delegation. "I don't know how many times it's been done that way, but there is a lot of crossover. Rana Brown (the chamber's senior vice president of advocacy) was with the county and moved across. There is a lot of overlap."