Foreign diplomats on State Department trip learn about the Miami economy

Thirty-four diplomats from countries ranging from Albania to Zambia are in Miami-Dade County this week for a briefing on the local economy.

The 33 ambassadors to the United States and a deputy chief of mission started their day Monday at PortMiami with a briefing by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on the port’s economic impact. They also learned about potential new trade opportunities as the port deepens its shipping channel to accommodate the giant ships that will transit the Panama Canal after its expansion in 2015.

The Miami visit was the latest “Experience America” trip organized by the U.S. State Department. Such missions are designed to promote business ties and inform the diplomats of advantages of doing business with the host city.

“Collectively, these ambassadors represent nearly half a billion people living in nearly three dozen countries around the world,’’ said Nick Schmit, the State Department's assistant chief of protocol for diplomatic partnerships. “This program gives them an opportunity to engage with prominent business leaders, local entrepreneurs, and learn about the many benefits of doing business in Miami.”

Participants ranged from Peter Ammon, the ambassador from industrial powerhouse Germany, to diplomats from small island economies such as Fiji in the Pacific Ocean and Dominica in the Caribbean Sea. Other countries from the Americas that were represented included Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago.

On Monday, the diplomats also met with Miami business leaders and Fred Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, at an event hosted by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

The diplomats’ visit, which concludes Wednesday, also will include discussions about local efforts to foster small business and South Florida’s emergence as a hub for tech start-ups and medical research.

The itinerary calls for visits to the University of Miami Life Science and Technology Park, Miami Children Hospital’s Telehealth Center, NAP of the Americas and the International Hurricane Research Center’s “wall of wind,’’ where building materials are tested for hurricane strength.

Since 2009, ambassadors from more than 100 countries have participated in “Experience America” trips that have taken them to cities across the nation.

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