South Florida 'gets it' on trade, US Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk says
By Zachary S. Fagenson
US Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk, in South Florida to promote President Obama's National Export Initiative, said the region "gets it" when it comes to international business and he'll deliver to the President the importance of infrastructure investments as well as the need for trade-friendly legislation.
"I've been so concentrated on market access but coming here I heard people say "don't forget about the infrastructure, we can help these trade zones but we've got to expand the port, and we've got have ability to take advantage of the dredging of the Panama Canal,'" he said.
The former Dallas mayor, who as trade representative sits in the President's cabinet, attended a town-hall style meeting at county hall last week with a handful of members of the local export community as well as county Commissioner José "Pepe" Diaz, Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, Port of Miami Director Bill Johnson, State Rep. Juan Zapata and others.
The meeting was closed to the media, an aide to the ambassador said as it began.
Afterward, however, Ambassador Kirk said the group made a couple points he can take back to Washington and the President to help support the export initiative, part of the recovery program that aims to double US exports over the next five years.
"We've got look at customs and streamlining the process," he said. "What I can do is go back and reaffirm to President that there are people here that stand with him and say let's get the South Korea, Panama [and] Colombia [free trade agreements] done sooner rather than later."
And the need for $75 million to dredge the Port of Miami's South channel will be "fed into the right channels," he added.
Sheryl Saenz, president of export logistics and marketing firm SAS Global Direct, said her primary question for Ambassador Kirk in the closed meeting dealt with the demand for US products overseas and the decline of US manufacturing.
"As a country we have sourced our production, everything from consumer products to apparel, to China, and what we're faced with at this point in time is the fact that a lot of overseas buyers want US brands but not a "Made in China" product," she said after the meeting. "The response primarily acknowledged the challenge that we have and touched on free trade agreements and that we have sourced a lot of our labor force overseas."
The majority of the talk during the hour-long gathering, she added, was a "lot of conversation on the big picture for Miami and what we need to do as far as expanding our export services as a trade city."