Lopez said the Chinese government has no stake in Dragon Mart Cancun. Rather, a Chinese entrepreneur, Hao Feng, who is also behind a third proposed Dragon Mart in Bahrain, holds a 10 percent stake through a Netherlands-based private company, Chinamex, he said. The other 90 percent of Dragon Mart Cancun is in the hands of Mexican investors from Merida and Monterrey, he said.
Chinamex considered a series of other cities for the Dragon Mart, including Los Angeles, Miami, Panama City and Sao Paulo, as well as other locations in Mexico, including Tijuana, according to promotional literature.
Cancun won because its airport has more international flights than any other in Latin America, Lopez said, and its world-class hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions also will draw buyers.
“It’s a nice place to go,” he said.
Moreover, the exposition center will broaden the regional focus from tourism: “This is an opportunity to diversify the economy,” he said.
Most of the merchandise ordered through Dragon Mart Cancun will never come through the Yucatan Peninsula. Instead, it will be shipped directly to the port nearest the buyer, Lopez said. Volumes may be huge. Lopez said Dragon Mart Dubai last year traded the equivalent of 52,000 20-foot containers.
Environmental groups also have taken aim at Dragon Mart Cancun, which would sit on a 1,367 acre site about four miles from Cancun’s airport.
“There is environmental concern because it is nearly along the coast and only 3,400 meters (2.1 miles) from a protected area, the reefs of Puerto Morelos,” said Alejandra Serrano, a representative of the Mexican Center for Environmental Law.
Serrano said Dragon Mart Cancun has not been transparent about its long-term plans nor has it complied with zoning laws on protecting green areas.
Lopez responded that the project will have its own water treatment plant and will make extensive use of solar energy.
“We will not chop any vegetation, any trees. Zero,” Lopez said. “There are very few projects in all of Mexico that are so green.”
Lopez said the project already has received the green light from the surrounding state of Quintana Roo and only awaits a building permit from the Benito Juarez municipality, which he expects next month.
The project should be completed by May 2014.