Chinese delegation to seek business ties in Miami
By Claudio Mendonça
A delegation from Tianjin, China's third-largest city, will be in Miami this month seeking major distribution facilities for Chinese goods as a springboard to Latin America.
The businessmen from the Tianjin economic development area are targeting Miami's seaport and international airport and the 850,000-square-foot Miami Free Zone in Doral.
The April 17-19 visit is the result of a Miami-Dade County mission to Asia in March during which county officials signed a letter of intent to do business with the Chinese city. Tianjin, with 16 million residents, is an industrial city in northern China along the Bohai Gulf. Motorola, Panasonic, Audi, Volkswagen, Philips and Toyota have plants there.
"Their delegation is seeking distribution points for businesses," said Ralph Gazitua, president and CEO of the Miami Free Zone. "The Chinese have huge interest in using Miami and the seaport as a vehicle to Latin America and the Caribbean. And Miami is the logical place."
Mr. Gazitua, one of 20 people on the March trip to the Far East, said 40% of products consumed in South America originate in China. Mr. Gazitua said he plans to return to Asia in August.
Also on the mission to China was county Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz, who said the agreement with Tianjin can lead to jobs in Miami.
"This is a huge opportunity for our county," he said. Miami, he said, can jump on the bandwagon to sell banking, legal and medical services.
Also seeking to stimulate international trade is the executive director of Miami-Dade's Jay Malina International Trade Consortium, Manny Gonzalez. He said the four Chinese visitors seek to explore partnerships in the Miami Free Zone for trade and business opportunities.
"Fifty percent of the automobiles that go to China come through the port of Tianjin," Mr. Gonzalez said. "The region of Tianjin alone does $10.7 billion worth of business with the US. We are hoping to capture 10% of that."
Tianjin businesses manufacture machinery, furniture and fiber optics, among other goods. When companies don't make products, Commissioner Diaz said, they assemble them. He said Tianjin's free trade zone is nearly the size of Coral Gables.
"The Chinese are very competitive and aggressive," Mr. Diaz said. "When the delegation arrives we are expecting to show them our assets and better understand our people."
China - including Hong Kong - now is the Port of Miami's largest trading partner, said Gary Goldfarb, executive director of the Miami Free Zone, moving up from seventh largest in 2003.
In principle, Mr. Goldfarb said, there is plenty of space for the Chinese to begin operations in the Doral facility. Nonetheless, he said, if the Chinese need additional space the free zone has plans to build elsewhere in the county.
Miami Free Zone officials are negotiating with officials from Milan to attract business from Italy. An official announcement is likely in May.