Miami chamber's international team targets trade missions, cargo movement
By Zachary Fagenson
A gathering of international business leaders said they want to do everything from make sure their industry knows about each inbound trade mission that comes to South Florida to track cargo movements to Miami before and after the reopening of the Panama Canal.
The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's International Business Development Committee, and its five subcommittees, met in the waning hours of the chamber's annual goal-setting conference to brainstorm ways to make the region an even more prominent global commerce hub.
The group's Consular Corps Committee, responsible for linking the chamber to Miami's vast diplomatic community, said it wanted to deepen those ties.
"I think one of the issues is we need to follow protocol through the secretary of the corps, because I know not all of them are receiving messages," said Mario Sacasa, senior vice president of international economic development programs at the Beacon Council.
To that end, the group proposed merging mailing lists with the consular corps, attending more luncheons in the coming year and soliciting consuls' help in seeking the passage of pending free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.
The Leadership Americas Committee said it will aim to be the diligent follow-up arm of the chamber's international operation.
"Many years ago the whole point of this committee was to bring back the people we met on those trips to show them what we have in Miami so there is that two-way trade," said Gateway Florida Executive Director Ines Calderon.
That purposes seemed to have been reignited, but taken a step further.
"We should use this as a platform to connect the members of the chamber to the different companies in Latin America that we have dealt with in the past and the chambers that we visit every year when we go on these trips," said Alejandra Collarte, director of international and corporate affairs and information technology at the University of Miami. "We should leverage the network we have with the global linkages and see if we can attract all these chamber members from different companies to come here, and see if we can expand through the international membership the chamber has created."
Meanwhile, the chamber's Global Linkages Committee, which actually arranges the trips, said it will target Panama, the Dominican Republic and Mexico in the coming year.
Beyond that, some suggested the chamber set a priorities list as to which countries to target to take advantage of the massive projects underway at the Port of Miami and Miami International Airport and the pending Panama Canal expansion.
"We've got to make sure that we've got the cargo coming in here," said World Trade Center in Miami President Charlotte Gallogly. "It becomes even more important to those of you who have outbound missions and inbound missions, and my recommendation is that we target our top trade partners and really intensify."
The Global Intelligence Committee, which seemed to be a think tank for the overarching international group, set out a lofty plan that included working with the education committee to develop programs to ensure younger international business professionals can speak and write in English and Spanish properly to interfacing with Southern Command, the military's joint base in Doral.
Lastly was a brief discussion of Cuba, seemingly wrenched out of the audience.
"We've got a blank board here," said Francisco Santeiro, managing director for FedEx's global trade services and chair of international business development committee, of the lack of goals for that nation as time wound down.
The chamber's official position on the issue is nonpolitical and is focused on what political change would mean economically for the region.
Economist and St. Thomas University School of Business Dean J. Antonio Villamil said the committee should develop a realistic projection of the impact of a political change.
"I would be very interested just tracking, without opinion, what's going on with all this restructuring they're trying to do," he said. "We cannot ignore what's going on. We're sending a billion dollars to Cuba."
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