Miami chamber seeks input of consuls, trade representatives
By Tom Harlan
The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce wants input from consuls and international trade representatives to help form its legislative agendas.
A US Chamber of Commerce official praised the initiative as a step to match local business goals with international commerce.
Large metro areas and states typically work with diplomats to promote trade agreements, said John Murphy, vice president of Western Hemisphere Affairs for the US Chamber of Commerce. But he said Miami is more active than other parts of the country due to its strong hemispheric trade ties.
"I think the Greater Miami chamber does a great job building up Florida's position as a trade hub," said Mr. Murphy, based in Washington.
Chambers and diplomats make a strong combination for advocacy issues, Mr. Murphy said. Members of chambers of commerce can explain how agreements can bring jobs and business opportunities, he said, and diplomats can discuss foreign policy issues and business opportunities abroad.
"It's a nice one-two punch," he said.
The advocacy benefit is just one part of the Greater Miami chamber's plan to take a strong role in the international arena, said Barry Johnson, its director of communications.
The Greater Miami chamber recently traveled with four local organizations to Washington to endorse an effort by the Hispanic Alliance for Free Trade to seek congressional approval of the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement.
The proposal includes Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The countries combine to be the second-largest destination for Florida goods, according to chamber statistics.
Consuls have been able to register as special trustees of the chamber since 2001 through a fund that pays annual trustee membership dues.
Baptist Health contributes to the Consular Corp Trustee program, said Baptist corporate Vice President Allen J. Brenteson, because the connection between the groups is key to day-to-day business and cultural activities in South Florida.
"I think it's time that the chamber becomes more active in advocacy of issues that are important to the US and these countries," he said. "Our interests are well-aligned with South America and the Caribbean."
The groups will need to work together, he said, for the passage of DR-CAFTA in participating countries and Congress.
In addition to a new focus on advocacy and a continuing mission to support international trade, the chamber has expanded its consular corps and trade representatives program, Mr. Johnson said, to include regular membership programs and luncheons.
"This is just the beginning," he said. "We're always looking for ways where we can provide to the consular corps and trade reps in our community."
Details: (305) 577-5464.