Trade and logistics are big business in South Florida—and China is at the center of it, representing 17 percent of traffic into PortMiami. (That's the largest of any PortMiami partner.)
Now, Miami has even more to lose if talk of a trade war with China comes to blows.
On Tuesday, China's Chamber Of Commerce for Import and Export of Textile and Apparel and developer Moishe Mana announced a new trade show centered on apparel and textile sourcing to be held in May.
Mana, the New York developer who has bought up swathes of land in Wynwood and downtown Miami, has been touting Miami as a potential East Coast home for Chinese businesses.
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"The Chinese are not aware of Miami," he said. "They're not aware but they're getting more aware."
The trade show represents the first major step in that vision, he said. It's expected to draw 150 Chinese companies, alongside dozens of others from across the world, he said. It will be held at Mana Wynwood Convention Center May 21-23 and will showcase the latest trends and technology in apparel, textiles, and fabric production methods.
"The [China Chamber] is very excited to explore one of the worlds greatest and untapped trade hubs — Miami.," said Chen Zhi Rong, chamber director, in a statement. "We are investing in Miami not just for Chinese companies, but to create a global trade show that inspires Americans and the Americas."
Tuesday's announcement comes amid an ongoing war of words over tariffs between the Trump Administration and China that experts are saying could escalate into a full-blown trade war—one that would instantly ripple through Miami's economy. In addition to being PortMiami's largest customer, China comprises 5 percent of international trade traffic at MIA International Airport, representing $3 billion according to WorldCity, a Miami-based publication that covers global trade. That's fourth-most among all countries for the airport.
"These [proposed] policies are very destructive for trade, for keeping America's image of stability — people aren't sure, they're thinking whether [Trump's ideas] are true or not — it's very bad for business," Mana said.
Trade show creator Jason Prescott, who also publishes Manufacturer.com., said that in choosing a location for its first U.S. show, he and his counterparts at the China Chamber decided New York and Las Vegas were ultimately "too saturated and a little too cliche" to hold another clothing convention.
Prescott was surprised to learn that South Florida, once a center for clothing manufacturing, had no significant apparel-based trade shows. After he took a chamber delegation around the city in August, the plan was put in motion. A chance encounter led Prescott and his team to Mana, who is not formally involved in the event besides being its landlord.
Mana, who accompanied Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on his recent trip to China, is calling on local officials to take a greater interest in what will soon be the world's largest economy—especially given the current stance of the White House. He learned from his recent trip that Chinese business officials do not act without the approval of their government and they assume Americans operate in a similar fashion.
"We have the great weather and the great [lack of] taxation, but the city and state have to come to the front," Mana said.
This story originally misstated Moishe Mana's role in the event.