European Uncertainty

As the Greek crisis approaches conclusion, the overall economic health of the EU comes into question.

While there has been recovery (the Eurozone is growing at an annual rate of 1.3 percent), it has been sporadic.

In the second quarter of the year France and Italy, which account for 40 percent of the Eurozone economy, slumped. Italy, which had only recently emerged from recession, fell back, managing growth of just 0.2 percent.

Unemployment numbers are also troubling:

Unemployment (June 2015)

  • EU 9.6 percent
  • Eurozone 11.1  percent
  • Greece 25.6 percent (April)
  • Spain 22.5 percent
  • Italy 12.7 percent
  • France 10.2 percent
  • Germany 4.7 percent

Source: Eurostat

Other challenges remain.  Germany is doing well but its exports will be impacted by a slowdown in Asia, many new jobs are temporary, unemployment figures remain high, and future energy prices are uncertain.

EuroAreaGDP

What Does This Mean for Florida?

Europe has traditionally been an important source of foreign direct investment to the state.  An uncertain economic future for Europe could lead to more European companies considering expansion or relocation to stronger and more stable economic environments such as Florida.  Further slowdown in Asian economies could also lead to an interest in diversification and the pursuit of other markets which Florida could serve as a point of entry to.

 

LEARN MORE:

Positioning Florida as a strategic and important destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) is a key strategy. This is a strategy identified in the Florida Chamber Foundation’s most recent Trade and Logistics study. To learn more about how the Florida Chamber is work to build Florida’s international relationships, contact Alice Ancona today at aancona@flchamber.com.

European Nations Lead Investments in Florida’s Global Economy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Edie Ousley, 850-521-1231 or 850-251-6261
eousley@flchamber.com

Companies from Europe Account for 67% of all Florida
Foreign Employment and 17% of Florida Origin Exports

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (May 27, 2015) – European countries are the leaders among foreign investors, with majority foreign-owned companies from Europe accounting for 67 percent of all Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) employment in Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce announced today.

“Florida’s leading European investors include the UK, Germany, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Europe presents unique strategic, trade and export opportunities for Florida,” said Alice Ancona, Director of Global Outreach for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.  “Currently, 17 percent of all Florida origin exports go to Europe, a market of over 500 million consumers. The U.S. and Europe represent half of the world’s economic production. Opening markets and creating jobs for Florida families are why trade is important to Florida.”

Florida visitors from Europe also help strengthen Florida’s economy and create jobs. In fact, every 85 visitors that come to Florida help create one new Florida job. Out of the top international countries for visitation to Florida, the UK ranked third, behind Canada and Brazil, with 1.6 million visitors in 2014.

The impact of international trade to Florida’s economy cannot be denied.

  • International business and foreign direct investment accounts for approximately 17 percent of Florida’s economic activity, and
  • Directly supports more than 1 million Florida jobs.
  • Florida is the seventh largest exporter of state-origin products with Florida-origin exports totaling more than $58.6 billion and exports from Florida supporting 275,221 U.S. jobs in 2013.

But Florida’s business leaders know that Florida must continue to work hard to remain the leader in international initiatives.

“Florida has come a long way in building international economic development efforts, but our work is far from over,” said Doug Davidson, Market Executive of Global Commercial Banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “At Bank of America, we support the Florida Chamber Foundation’s research in trade and logistics because we know that Florida’s future lies in being globally competitive.”

The Florida Chamber’s Global Florida Program’s mission is to educate and promote business opportunities, collaborate and advance policy initiatives in each of the four major geographic regions:  Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and Middle East/Africa. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam recently sponsored the Florida World Trade Month resolution, which was signed by Governor Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and CFO Jeff Atwater.

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

Tourism Group Pushes to Ease Travel-Visa Restrictions

By Jim Stratton

If you listen to Oren Lotringer, Central Florida could become a hotbed for Israeli tourism.

It has theme parks, shopping, outdoor adventures and plenty of hotels for Israeli families looking for a taste of the U.S. — all the ingredients his countrymen are looking for, he said, with one exception.

“It’s very difficult to get a visa,” said Lotringer, president of the Central Florida-based Live Israel Tours. About 331,000 Israelis visited the U.S. last year, but Lotringer said many more would come “if it wasn’t so hard.”

It’s a message being pushed by tourism-industry interests as small as Live Israel Tours and as big as Walt Disney Co.

Under the name Discover America Partnership, they are lobbying Congress to expand the Visa Waiver Program, which lets visitors from 38 countries – such as France, Japan and Germany — visit the U.S. for 90 days on a passport only, with no visa required. The group has identified a number of countries it would like to add to the list, including Brazil, Poland, Croatia, Israel and Uruguay.

Expanding the program would pump nearly $10 billion into the economy and create nearly 60,000 new jobs, according to Discover America estimates. Lotringer, who arranges visits to the U.S. for about 2,000 Israelis each year, can’t vouch for those numbers. But he’s confident Israel’s inclusion in the program would help Orlando.

“Many Israelis consider the U.S. to be the ‘big brother,’” he said. “They love to travel here and to spend money when they travel here.”

To get a visa, Israelis must visit the U.S. embassy, fill out forms and submit to an interview. They pay a processing fee – between $160 and $190 – that is non-refundable, even if the visa is denied.

The process is similar in other countries, though, logistically harder in some. In Brazil, families may have to travel hundreds of miles for visa interviews. The country, roughly the size of the continental U.S., has just four consular offices that conduct the interviews.

Applicants can be rejected for several reasons. Interviewers may decide they’re a security risk or worry that they may try to stay longer than permitted.

Those issues also affect which countries are granted visa waiver status, according to the Congressional Research Service. They must meet certain security protocols and have a stable government and a functioning economy. Argentina was booted out of the program in 2002 because U.S. officials feared an economic collapse there might drive large numbers of Argentines to the U.S. in search of work.

Sometimes a country is kept out of the waiver program for political reasons.

Israel, for example, is a strong U.S. ally, but the country makes it difficult for Americans of Palestinian or Arab descent to visit and travel. Consequently, the U.S. has been reluctant to make it easy for Israelis to travel here.

“In that case, it’s purely political,” said Duncan Dickson, a professor at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

In Central Florida, the focus is on South American countries not currently in the program — Brazil and Argentina, in particular. Even without the advantage of the waiver program, Brazil has become Orlando’s biggest source of overseas tourists, and industry leaders see similar potential in Argentina.

The stakes are so high that some of the area’s biggest tourism players – including Disney, Universal, Visit Orlando and Visit Florida – sit on the executive committee of the Discover America Partnership. Those seats cost $10,000.

“For us, there’s nothing but upside,” said Visit Orlando President and CEO George Aguel. “We know when those barriers come down, you can see benefits quickly.”

UCF Professor Asli D.A. Tasci studied the effects of tougher visa restrictions on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

“The numbers were clear,” she said. “Declining numbers coincided with tightening regulations,” and China “did not get the return on their massive investment on this mega-event.”

Although countries can be added to the program by the Department of Homeland Security, the industry is urging Congress to pass legislation that eases eligibility requirements. The legislation doesn’t explicitly add countries to the program, but more would become eligible under its provisions.

The measure is supported by more than 150 members of Congress, but it’s part of a larger immigration reform package that appears dead for now.

“Candidly,” said Aguel, “it’s stalled.”

That frustrates tour operators such as Honorata Pierwola, president of the New Jersey-based Society of Polish American Travel Agents. Pierwola said Poland, like Israel, is filled with people who would like to see the U.S. and Florida if getting here was easier.

“People don’t understand why they need it [a travel visa],” she said. Eliminating that requirement, she said, “would be very good economically for Florida.”