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Puerto Rico a gateway to Latin America for Chinese entrepreneurs

Trade with China reached $79.7 million in exports and $401 million in imports during fiscal 2004


March 3, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

"Puerto Rico should play up its strong links to Latin America to attract Chinese businesses interested in entering this market," said William Lawton, officer for the

U.S. Department of Commerce Foreign Commercial Service (FCS).

Lawton, a senior trade specialist for the FCS’ Ft. Lauderdale Export Assistance Center, will be the main speaker at tomorrow’s conference on China, sponsored by the University of Puerto Rico Small Business Development Center’s International Trade Center.

"Puerto Rico is no exception compared to a lot of U.S. regions facing challenges in retaining labor intensive companies," said Lawton to CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. "Manufacturing labor intensive companies follow the places where there are the lowest wages, and that is just the fact of the matter. But Puerto Rico can play up to its strengths. It is Hispanic and has strong links to Latin America. China is very interested in penetrating the Latin American market whether by joint venture, partnerships, or through gateways to the continent."

According to Lawton, China’s penetration of Latin America isn’t that great and the country is determined to pursue its expansion. Given Puerto Rico’s connection to Latin America, businesses could develop niches.

"Doing business in China takes time, but it is doable," said Lawton. "It takes time, research, money to go over and work, talk, and make relationships, which is key to doing business in China. This type of business experience is almost akin to doing business in Latin America, where a business relationship is built over time. The disadvantage is that it takes time, but once you get a commitment to do business it moves along fast; and exports are not only for goods but also services. When you play to the island’s strengths, this is what Puerto Rico has."

Since fiscal 2002, the value of Puerto Rico’s exports to China has increased from $41.8 million to $64.7 million in fiscal 2003 and $79.7 million in fiscal 2004, an increase of 23.2% from fiscal 2003 to fiscal 2004. In fiscal 2004, the bulk of exports came from manufacturing products and services exported to China at $69.9 million. Among manufacturing products, at least $35.2 million was reported in chemicals and $25.8 million in computer and electronic products.

In the past three fiscal years, the value of imports from China has also increased. During fiscal 2002, imports from China reached $258.8 million, increasing to $330.4 million in fiscal 2003 and $401 million in fiscal 2004, a 21.3% increase over the past year alone. While Puerto Rico didn’t export agricultural, forestry, fishing, and hunting products during fiscal 2004, approximately $4.2 million in goods were imported. Of the $396.7 million reported in imported manufacturing products, $54.9 million was furniture, another $46.1 million was computer and electronic products, $45.1 million in food products, and $41.5 million in electronic equipment.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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