Florida Chamber Supports Trans-Pacific Partnership American Trade Policy

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Florida’s current business agenda puts jobs, growth and economic opportunity in the driver’s seat. Florida has been able to grow our economy exponentially due to a smart and business-friendly environment. The Florida Chamber of Commerce supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) American trade policy as it will have a significant impact on the strength of our economy and the lives of Floridians.

The TPP agreement will provide Florida with the opportunity to increase goods and services trade with emerging markets across the globe. It will accomplish this by removing several challenges that our businesses face when they attempt to bring their goods to international markets. This monumental trade deal will create a level playing field between U.S. companies of all sizes with some of our strongest trading partners.

Florida already has good trade ties with several of the TPP countries. Florida exported $1.6 billion in goods and $3.3 billion in services in 2014 to these countries. The TPP will remove nearly 18,000 tariffs American businesses face, which will undoubtedly increase exports tot he TPP partner countries.

The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that Canadian and Japanese companies alone employed approximately 57,200 employees  in Florida in 2013. More than 1,300 Florida businesses are subsidiaries of companies based in TPP countries, serving as an important source of business investment and job creation in the state. Statewide there are nearly 942,000 jobs supported by the TPP trade in Florida.

Florida will benefit from the opportunities created by the TPP and we encourage Congress and the President to enact legislation that will implement it.

India and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation

Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) launched an initiative, ‘India and APEC: Charting a Path to Membership,’ to develop the case and a strategy for gaining India’s membership in Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). The ASPI initiative will be supported in India by leading business association Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Joining APEC would be a game-changer for India and would position it for integration into global supply chains as well as serve as a bridge to one day joining the TPP.

India is Asia’s third largest economy and its participation in APEC would be a win for India and the region, particularly at a time when China’s economy is slowing down.  India’s entry will require it to update its policy and regulatory environment preparing it for greater market access and trade liberalization in order to fully participate in the global market place.

APEC had a moratorium on new membership for a decade, which has now been lifted.

APEC’s members include the U.S., Russia, China, Australia and Japan. It represents 2.8 billion people and accounts for 57 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and 47 percent of global trade.

What Does This Mean for Florida?

While India is not one of Florida’s top trading partners, its potential is tremendous.  Its large economy still remains a “sleeping giant” as it has not fully integrated into the global market place and still lacks critical infrastructure investments to maximize capacity and stimulate business growth. India’s integration into APEC could open doors for greater market access to U.S./Florida exporters and businesses looking to tap into its potential. Relationship building is important for Florida to be at the forefront of an emerging powerhouse that is India poised to become.

 

Learn More:

In order to remain globally competitive, Florida needs to diversity our trading partners and markets to expand and grow Florida trade.  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.

Global Markets Create New Opportunities for Florida’s Economy

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

Trade with Asia Pacific, Middle East/Africa
Accounts for 19 Percent of Florida-Origin Exports

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (May 20, 2015) – Emerging markets in Asia-Pacific and Middle East/Africa provide Florida with incredible opportunity, with 19 percent of Florida origin exports shipped to these regions, the Florida Chamber of Commerce announced today.

“Florida is the gateway to international trade and our state is in a position where we can really take advantage of strong international relationships,” said John Walsh, CEO and Port Director of Canaveral Port Authority. “Emerging economies such as those in Asia, the Middle East and Africa really provide a unique opportunity for Florida to lead the nation in trade and logistics, manufacturing and more. At Port Canaveral, our ability to use highway, rail and air resources for distribution and logistics helps keep Florida a leader in international trade and logistics efforts.”

It’s these resources that allow Florida to take advantage of the opportunities emerging markets represent. Middle Eastern and North African economies (known as the MENA region) are one of the largest emerging market economic blocs. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that it will be the third fastest-growing region in the world over the next five years. The MENA region has one of the youngest populations in the world, helping to create a vibrant and energetic start-up culture. In Africa, this younger generation is also better educated and ready to meet the demands of global business.

The Middle East will be one of the world’s fastest growing aviation markets during the next 20 years with an extra 237 million passengers flying to, from and within the region. A report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts the UAE aviation market will lead the region with average annual growth of 5.6 percent.

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.

“Florida is in a unique position to take advantage of growing global economies,” said Alice Ancona, Director of Global Outreach for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Japan is one of Florida’s leading investors. Hong Kong alone represents $2.4 billion in Florida origin exports, with more than $653 million in high tech exports. Florida has a once in a lifetime opportunity to capitalize on the Panama Canal expansion and changing trade become the global hub for international trade.”

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.”