TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott leaves Sunday on a five-day trip to Colombia to promote Florida and its products to one of the state’s biggest trading partners.
Colombia is the fifth largest economy in Latin America with a population of 47.1 million and ranks among the top five destinations for the state’s products with some $3 billion in exports annually, according to Enterprise Florida.
“With the recent ratification of the Free Trade Agreements, I am convinced that Florida and Colombia’s growing relationship will expand even more,” Scott said in a news release.
Enterprise Florida reported that the state’s total merchandise trade, which combines exports and imports, totaled $149.2 billion, in 2011 and that roughly one if six workers in the state have jobs related to international trade.
It’s the third time since May that Scott will lead a trade delegation outside the United States. He traveled to Spain in May and the United Kingdom in July when he visited the Farnborough Air Show. The Scotts’ tab was $16,689. That included $500 a night hotel rooms, a $382 dinner and $423 to change an airline ticket on the six-day trip to London and environs.
Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership, has paid the travel expenses for Scott and his wife, Ann, on the trips although taxpayers picking up the cost of the governor’s security.
On the Brazil trip last year, American Airlines donated two business-class seats to Enterprise Florida for the Scotts’ use.
Gov. Scott, who turned 60 on Saturday, defends the foreign trips as vital for Florida’s economic success.
“We are committed to growing our relationship across the world in order to create jobs for Florida’s families,” said Scott, who campaigned on a promise of creating 700,000 new jobs in the state in seven years.
Now nearing the end of his second year as governor, Scott previously visited Brazil, Canada, Israel and Panama. Enterprise Florida has spent more than $35,000 for the Scotts’ travel on previous trade missions. Most of the remaining travel party is responsible for their own expenses.
Former Gov. Bob Martinez, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, state Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad and Commerce Secretary Gray Swoopes are among the 190 people listed in the Colombia traveling delegation that will leave from Miami.
Scott said each of the trade trips is different but they all help market the state and make people aware of Florida’s advantages, its various ports and other amenities.
“Every trip has this goal in mind,” he said. “How do we put ourselves in a position so that Florida companies have more success if they are selling a product or service overseas and how do we make sure that foreign companies invest in our state.”