This month, I am leading a trade mission to Santiago, Chile, with more than 100 participants representing different businesses and organizations, to expand Chilean trade and investment in Florida and create jobs and opportunities for Florida families. Our mission includes approximately 20 Florida manufacturers and exporters that will be matched with Chilean importers through the U.S. Embassy to promote exporting and job opportunities. This trip is an opportunity to position Florida as a global hub for business with the most open and successful economy in Latin America.
Although we still have a lot of work to do, Florida’s economy is headed in the right direction. Florida’s unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent for the month of March, the lowest since October 2008. We also experienced positive job growth of 32,400 new private-sector jobs.
Since December 2010, the state’s unemployment rate has dropped 3.6 percentage points, and 321,700 private sector jobs have been created. I am confident that Florida’s economic relationship with Latin America will continue to grow and create opportunities for Florida families.
In addition, there are many opportunities for Chilean companies to do business in Florida. Major Chilean companies such as LAN Cargo and BCI Bank have operations in the Sunshine State. Additionally, Chile is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world for Florida exports. Chile is Florida’s fifth-largest export market with more than $7.7 billion in bilateral trade. In the past two years, Florida’s origin exports to Chile have expanded by almost 48 percent. Since the implementation of the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement in January 2004, Florida has experienced a two-way trade growth of 262 percent.
Additionally, Florida is a top destination for Chilean exports. The Port of Panama City is the No. 1 entry point for Chilean copper, and the Miami airport is the top entry point for Chilean salmon. Our mission includes efforts to attract more Chilean cargo through Florida ports, and I will be meeting with the Fruit Exporters Association and Salmon Exporters Association to promote more cargo from Chile.
The trade mission to Chile will be my eighth trade mission and fourth to Latin America. My last trade mission to Bogotá, Colombia, in December was a success. I am proud to say that the participating companies to Colombia reported actual and expected sales in excess of $40 million as a result of the trip.
In 2011, I led a trade mission to Panama with six Florida port directors, business leaders and executives from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Association of Manufacturers and Associated Industries of Florida. This delegation enhanced Florida’s economic relationship with Panama through strengthened ties between state leaders and the Republic of Panama and Florida seaports with the Panama Canal Authority.
It is important to realize that international trade and foreign investment combined are responsible for creating more than one million Florida jobs, or roughly about one in seven jobs in Florida. By sustaining and strengthening Florida’s global economic connections, we help make the state an ideal location to trade with Latin America and beyond.
As Florida’s economic success continues to grow, trade missions are one way we can strengthen the state’s presence in the global business market. I look forward to leading a trade delegation to Chile as we work to make Florida the No. 1 state for business.