Medellín visitors aim to expand hefty Miami-Colombia trade
By Zachary S. Fagenson
A handful of companies from Medellín slated to hit Miami next week aims to open more US markets and sell everything from alligator-skin handbags to makeup packaging.
The May 11-14 mission, coordinated by the Colombian-American chambers of commerce here and in Medellín and Miami-Dade's Jay Malina International Trade Consortium, plans one-on-one business meetings May 13.
"Most of the companies coming are clothing and food" manufacturers, said Carolina Coulson, executive director of Colombian-American Chamber of Commerce in Miami, "which are some of [Colombia's] biggest exporters right now."
The mission is bringing only companies looking to sell.
Among them are Pastas Alfredo LLC, which seeks to export garlic-laced food products; Confecciones Clio, which targets buyers for its maternity clothes; and apparel company Cocoa Jeans.
The trip will kick off with a training conference on export logistics and regulation and how to break into US markets. Most of the visiting companies, Ms. Coulson noted, are new to exporting.
The following day the companies will participate in a trade show in the Miami Free Zone. And after a day of one-on-one meetings with potential Miami partners, they'll visit the Port of Miami and Miami International Airport during their final day in town.
The mission is just a glimpse of the trade between Miami and Colombia.
"The inbound side, for products coming to the US from Colombia, includes fresh cut flowers, apparel and even gold and precious metals," said Lenny Feldman, managing partner of Sandler Travis & Rosenberg PA's Miami office. "South Florida generally captures more than 25% of all Colombian trade."
In 2009, Colombia was Miami's No. 2 trading partner with about $5.6 billion in goods moving between the country and the Miami Customs District, which stretches from Martin County to the Florida Keys.
And unlike Miami's other top trading partners in the region, trade with Colombia dropped only a fraction of one percent between 2008 and 2009.
Meanwhile, trade with Miami's No. 1 partner there, Brazil, fell nearly 16% year-over-year, while No. 3 Venezuela fell about 32.5%.
South Florida's main exports to Colombia "center [on] commodities such as computers, computer parts, aircraft parts, cell phone equipment [and] television equipment," Mr. Feldman added.
Miami's trade with Colombia is expected to remain strong despite a stalled proposal for a free trade agreement.
"Colombia's been a top trading partner and ally of the US for years and I do not see that changing with or without a US-Colombia free trade agreement," he said, "although it surely would boost our mutual economic interest."
With talks of upcoming mid-term elections potentially stalling free trade negotiations, Colombia and South Florida may rely more on trade missions than political help to fuel the relationship's growth.
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