Miami boosters take FTAA headquarters pitch to Barbados
By Samantha Joseph
Representatives of hundreds of Caribbean companies heard an indirect pitch by Florida marketers to put the Free Trade Area of the Americas headquarters in Miami.
Nearly 200 business leaders from 13 Caribbean countries attended a conference last week in Barbados that Florida marketers hoped would pay off when trade ministers decide on a location for the FTAA secretariat.
Miami is one of 10 cities trying to become the center of a free-trade zone that could lead to open trade among 34 countries in the Western Hemisphere by next year. A treaty would create a single market of 800 million people and a combined gross domestic product of $14 trillion.
Organizers of the meeting said it brought them one step closer to achieving their goal of winning the FTAA headquarters.
Sherry Tross, who directs Caribbean initiatives at World Trade Center Miami, said the event brought companies ranging from startups to multinationals such as FedEx and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Participants discussed funding, marketing and other opportunities for Caribbean businesses doing business in Florida.
Miguel Southwell, Miami International Airport assistant director of business development, said the move would build partnerships between Florida and the Caribbean that would help cement Miami's FTAA aspirations.
Members of the Caribbean Community organization, CARICOM, have pledged their support to Trinidad and Tobago for the secretariat, but Florida promoters hope the region will not reject Miami's bid.
Under the draft treaty guidelines, each country would have one vote and all members must endorse the chosen host of the headquarters.
"We respect the fact that CARICOM nations have chosen Trinidad, which is their horse in this race for the secretariat, but we would ask them to consider Miami as their second choice," Mr. Southwell said. "I think this resonated well. Many of them do business through Miami, anyway."
He said official support of Miami from Caribbean governments or CARICOM officials would be improper "politically and otherwise" and would harm Trinidad's bid.
"So what you hope for, and what has occurred, is that at least they do not reject your request," he said. "What you hope to do is simply position yourself so that when they are given the choice, you have a reasonable amount of certainty that you will be thought of favorably by them."
Harold Robertson, Trinidad and Tobago's consul general in Miami, said more than 17 of the 34 countries in the FTAA talks have pledged their support for the Caribbean nation.