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Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Latin Chamber Courts Foreign Dignitaries


March 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Sarasota Herald-Tribune. All rights reserved. 

Hispanic business leaders who see Southwest Florida as the next big trade zone are courting foreign dignitaries to lure Latin American business.

Already, members of the Gulf Coast Latin Chamber of Commerce have met with the mayor of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Today, chamber members are set to meet Ramon Bordas Gomez, general consul for the Dominican Republic. Gomez also is an importer-exporter of produce and construction materials.

Vicente Medina, treasurer for the Latin Chamber, said local businesses hit hard by the sputtering economy could get a boost by focusing on foreign markets.

"There's more opportunities for business in the Dominican Republic than here," he said.

The move to strengthen economic ties with Latin America comes as U.S. trade representatives are talking openly about cutting tariffs on some goods from South and Central America. Federal officials are pushing for an overall tariff plan by 2005.

Medina says the Latin Chamber wants lower tariffs and believes open-trade policies will aid Latin American economies and translate into higher demand for U.S. goods. Freer trade could also help those nations repay U.S. loans, he said.

Last month, Carlos Mendez, mayor of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, toured Southwest Florida, including stops at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and Port Manatee.

Gomez is expected to make a similar tour. In addition, he's scheduled to address the Latin Chamber's monthly business card exchange at 1226 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. That event, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. today, costs $5 for members and $10 for nonmembers.

On March 26, the chamber will meet with another Dominican Republic official, Elido Perez, mayor of Salzedo.

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