Gabriel Silva, Colombia s ambassador to the United States, expectsto see rapid growth in exports from Florida due to the recentlyapproved free-trade agreement between the countries. However, he told business leaders at the Florida Chamber ofCommerce s International Days held at Florida State University onWednesday that both nations must quickly grasp the opportunitiesbecause the Panama Canal expansion will soon be completed. Colombiahas 69 other free-trade agreements in place and four more in theworks. There are going to be a lot of things to do, and we need to dothem fast, because opportunities come and go and we need to make aplan to take advantage of the opportunity, said Silva, who isColombia s former minister of national defense and once wasgeneral manager of the National Federation of Coffee Growers ofColombia. See a video of Silva s appearance here. |
Silva s call comes as Gov. Rick Scott is planning to head anEnterprise Florida trade mission to Colombia in December and stateRep. Lake Ray, R-Jacksonville, intends to lay the groundwork in thetransportation funding bill, HB 1399 , for how future port funding from the Legislature is strategicallyset aside. Silva said Scott s trade mission will help build the international relationship between Colombiaand Florida.
We want this to be a balanced relationship," Silva said. "Wedon t want to just export to the U.S." Already his country, which has grown to become the 27th largesteconomy in the world a decade after being more known for itsrampant drug trade and guerrilla insurgencies, is projecting theincrease in exports from Florida. With 5,000 businesses currently in Florida that have ties toColombia, Silva said his country expects to see a 60 percentincrease in manufacturing imports from Florida, with processedfoods to grow 46 percent and fruits and other agricultural goods up31 percent from the Sunshine State. Colombia is already Port Everglades fifth largest tradingpartner, with 240,351 tons transported through the port to and fromColombia. At Port Manatee on Tampa Bay, which handled 8.03 million tons ofcargo in 2010, Colombia accounted for 152,670 tons of exports in2011 and 182,504 tons of imports.
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