Florida May Benefit From Free Trade Agreements
Lakeland Ledger – October 22, 2011
Importer Grymes Cannon eagerly awaits the end of paying a tariff on Colombian flowers that adds 4 cents to the cost of each stem he sells at his South Tampa floral arrangement business.
In St. Petersburg, Carlos Ramos will stop paying the tariff — around 15 percent— each time his underground surveying crews bring a specialized pipe into Panama for work on the multibillion-dollar canal expansion.
Fort Pierce grapefruit grower Mike Garavaglia predicts increasing sales to South Koreans with a taste for his tart fruit. The reason: A 30 percent tariff will be phased out over the next five years.
Florida is among the states most likely to get a boost from free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that President Barack Obama signed into law Friday. The deal was one of the few major measures approved in Congress recently with support from Republicans and Democrats.
The agreements will create 20,000 new jobs in the state and generate more than $1.5 billion in international trade opportunities, according to the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Nationally, the deal with South Korea will carry the biggest punch. South Korea is the world’s 15th-largest economy and the new trade agreement has the potential to create as many as 280,000 American jobs, according to a recent estimate by the U.S. International Trade Commission.
But the Latin America agreements hold the most promise short-term for Florida. Colombia is the state’s second largest trading partner, with more than $7.5 billion in imports and exports last year. Only Brazil was bigger, with nearly $16 billion.