TRADE SOARING IN SUNSHINE STATE

TRADE SOARING IN SUNSHINE STATE

Florida's total trade through June jumped more than 21 percent, compared with the first six months of last year, and by the end of 1995, is projected to top more than $50 billion.

In April alone, trade increased nearly 19 percent, compared with April of the previous year, while exports soared 22.6 percent.June marked Florida's 17th straight month of double-digit trade growth, said Secretary of Commerce Charles Dusseau.

"We've grown incredibly rapidly. People in trade are outwardly focused. They don't make a lot of noise, they just do their business and create a lot of business."

Florida's trade, which relies heavily on Latin America, has "grown all across the board, across the world and in the Far East as well. We don't want to be totally dependent on one region," Mr. Dusseau said.

"Trade is an integral part of Florida's future. We're not stealing trade

from anyone; we're taking advantage of expanding trade globally."

Florida's top trading partners, year-to-date through June, were Brazil, Japan, Colombia, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Germany, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Honduras, according to Florida Department of Commerce statistics, released Oct. 6.

Venezuela, because of its political woes, "has dropped down a bit, but Brazil and Colombia are outpacing last year," Mr. Dusseau said.

Other exporting trends include an increase in the shipping of phosphates to China, Mr. Dusseau noted. "There's a trend toward more sophisticated trading. Trends are following what we first saw in Latin America: less technology, but over time, as the market grows, we'll see value-added products."

Through June, Florida's leading export partners were Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Jamaica, Paraguay, Guatemala and Honduras.

Total exports were valued at more than $14.5 billion, or a 23.6 percent increase. Exports through the Miami U.S. Customs District were valued at $11 billion, and at $3.4 billion through the Tampa district.

Top products exported from Florida include passenger vehicles, fertilizers, office machine parts and accessories, transmission parts, tractor and aircraft parts and accessories, digital processing input and output units, telecommunications parts and accessories, and men's and boy's trousers.

During the first four months of this year, Mexican trade with Florida fell drastically, largely due to Mexico's downward economic spiral.

The North American Free Trade Agreement "has created a myopic focus. We now have dislocation and disruption to Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) countries," said Howard Vine, managing partner of the Washington office of Greenberg Traurig law firm, which represents the Central American and Caribbean Textile and Apparel Council with CBI legislation.

Caribbean Basin Initiative is a law that extends duty-free treatment to specific goods entering the United States from designated countries.

"We've given preference to Mexico over the CBI, and the devaluation of the peso has exacerbated that."

Other traders are cautious despite the state's optimistic forecasts. ''Venezuela's decrease has been drastic, and there are problems in Argentina and Mexico. It's sad to say, but it appears that in Latin America, the economics run in cycles: up and down. There's always a problem. Argentina was doing wonders, and now there are serious problems," said Nicolas Aguirre, president of the 100-member Florida Exporters and Importers Association in Miami.

"Politics is always involved in economic and social unrest. The social and economic aspects are always intertwined, always hand in hand. In South America, many economies are stagnated and undeveloped," Mr. Aguirre added.

Florida's trade, however, makes up about half of all U.S. trade with the Caribbean, 40 percent of all U.S. trade in Central America, and one-third of all U.S. trade to South America, noted Charles Jainarain, executive director of the new Summit of Americas Center at Florida International University in Miami.

"We'll continue to see a maintenance and rebuilding of economies. The rebuilding in the Caribbean and Latin America is not over. We're seeing tremendous increases in Brazil."

And devastation in the Caribbean caused by two recent hurricanes, Luis and Marilyn, also likely will bode well for Florida's construction and export economies as Caribbean islands rebuild.

"Without a doubt, we'll see a temporary increase in activity as people rebuild," said Mr. Dusseau. "We'll see something of a spike in exports to that region. The demand will be significant."

Earlier this year, Gov. Lawton Chiles hosted his first gubernatorial trade mission to South America, with about 20 Florida business participants, to spur business with Florida in two of the region's largest countries, Brazil and Argentina. The U.S. and Brazilian governments are working together to approve a five-year, reciprocity visa plan that likely will increase volume and frequency of Brazilians traveling to the United States.

The exporting of environmental waste removal and cleanup systems, in addition to high-technology systems, is likely to be a lively growth market throughout industrial South America.

"Brazil, for example, is just putting in place its environmental laws," said Sharon Rinehimer, general counsel for RGF Environmental Systems Inc. of West Palm Beach. "There's a lot of pollution in Brazil. It's a market we're developing."

Clarence Baugh, president of Boca Raton-based Custom Biologicals Inc., also sees potential. "We make biological products that degrade toxic waste. All of the Caribbean and South America offer great potential. It's fantastic. The laws are not enforced there. In Puerto Rico, recently, we cleaned up 100,000 gallons of milk spilled into a river. We also do a lot of work in Brazil,

mainly cleanup work from the oil companies."

Dudley Gordon, vice president of operations at Melbourne-based DBS Systems Inc., which makes satellite functional verification systems, sold two of his systems in Brazil. "We deal with subcomponents of satellite systems that are designed for ground verification," Mr. Gordon said. "In South America, our sales have been limited to Brazil."

With local trade leaders predicting that Miami-area trade could grow from 10 percent to 15 percent in the next decade, plans are under way for two major trade-related projects in South Florida's trading hub.

"There are nothing but good things ahead for Miami," Mr. Vine said. ''From the Southern exposure, Miami is seen as the positive force, especially in trading, that it always has been."

A new World Trade Center, with the cost of a first phase estimated at $105 million, is on the drawing boards. If built as proposed, modeled after centers in Amsterdam and Taipei, it could include 758,500 square feet of office showroom space, 200,000 square feet of exhibition space, 60,000 square feet of conference, training and meeting room space, and a 60,000-square-foot conference center. World Trade Center leaders currently are seeking a developer for the project.

Plans in Fort Lauderdale for a 520,000-square-foot trade mart, adjacent to the Broward County Convention Center, have been scrapped because of a lack of funding.

Meanwhile, Orlando World Trade Center leaders are planning a trade center there, too, with foreign investment funding, and are targeting a possible groundbreaking next year. Orlando and Miami are locked in fierce competition for international business. Orlando's airport, for example, still has several thousand acres available for expansion, while Miami's airport is almost landlocked.

In Miami, trade leaders also are studying the concept of a Latin American stock or financial exchange to establish Miami as the center of investment banking in Latin America.

Florida-based Holland & Knight law firm is part of a consortium that includes New York-based Coopers & Lybrand, the Chicago Stock Exchange, investment firm Socimer Espaa and the Barcelona Stock Exchange, which is working to create the same legal framework for all nine of Central America's stock exchanges by September 1996. In the future, the exchanges could benefit

from a wave of privatizations throughout Central America.

Miami-based Holland & Knight partner George Mencio said that besides stock exchange potential in Central America, Florida exports to Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Argentina are "doing very well. Cargo traffic is just packed. Cargo is generating more money than passengers."

While Florida companies first began trading hard goods with Central and South American nations, trends are now moving toward service, high-tech and software trading. "Trading is more focused now on intellectual property," Mr. Mencio said.

Florida also is working to develop trade with emerging markets, especially South Africa. In mid-September, Mr. Dusseau and Bill Stevens, assistant secretary of commerce and the state's envoy to South Africa, met with South African trade leaders in Miami to forge trade and tourism partnerships. South African business leaders toured downtown Miami, its port and Miami International Airport.

At MIA, international cargo also posted a hefty increase, with a 30 percent hike in July. Between July 1994 and the same month this year, 1.6 million tons of cargo traveled through the airport. And of a total 3.1 million passengers, international traffic rose 16.6 percent, to 1.46 million, also that month.

On Sept. 18, American Airlines Cargo opened a new 257,000-square-foot cargo facility, the size of seven football fields, at MIA.

Florida's recent double-digit trade hike is expected to continue throughout the year, Mr. Dusseau projects.

For example, international trade also soared a dramatic 27.3 percent in February. Florida officials say that month's trade hike likely was related to the Summit of the Americas, held in Miami in December.

That month, exports through the Tampa district totaled $614 million, a 38.2 percent increase above that in February 1994, while exports through the Miami district totaled $1.7 billion, a 17.3 percent increase, compared with the same month last year.

In 1994, trade through Florida totaled $49.5 billion, a 15.2 percent increase above 1993. Last year, total exports were $25.1 billion, or a 14 percent increase, above the previous year. Total imports were $20.9 billion, a 15.5 percent increase.