Florida

Florida-Mexico trade summit called off amid Trump-Mexico tension

Piñatas that resemble President Donald Trump are displayed in a store at Mercado Hidalgo on Jan. 27 in Tijuana, Mexico. Trump announced a proposal to impose a 20 percent tax on all imported goods from Mexico to pay for the border wall between the United States and Mexico.
Piñatas that resemble President Donald Trump are displayed in a store at Mercado Hidalgo on Jan. 27 in Tijuana, Mexico. Trump announced a proposal to impose a 20 percent tax on all imported goods from Mexico to pay for the border wall between the United States and Mexico. Getty Images

Donald Trump’s frequent clashes with Mexico are already hindering Florida’s relations with one of its top trading partners.

A trade summit meant to foster better ties between Mexico and Florida businesses set for Feb. 22 in Orlando was abruptly postponed Monday, less than a week after Trump threatened a 20 percent border tax on Mexican products coming into the U.S. and just days after the president of Mexico canceled his scheduled meeting with Trump.

“Understandably, there has been much uncertainty given the current state of negotiation and trade discussions between Mexico and the U.S.,” Doug Wheeler, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council, wrote to expected attendees of the summit. “And while we remain encouraged about the opportunities to continue to increase ocean trade between Florida seaports and Mexico, we also feel discussions from this Summit would be more productive at a time when more information and clarity can be provided.”

The Florida-Mexico Trade Summit, promoted as “Bridging the Future,” was supposed to include Francisco Gonzalez Diaz, CEO of ProMexico, the country’s economic development arm.

But that was before last week’s disagreements on border walls, a tariff, trade deals and visit schedules. Trump’s administration at first said a 20 percent tax on imports would pay for a border wall with Mexico. And Trump has promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has helped Mexican manufacturing exports steadily grow in the U.S. over the last two decades.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled his scheduled visit on Thursday to Washington to meet with the President.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Ports Council, which organized the summit, insisted the postponement was not a reaction to anything that happened last week and was instead just about needing to get more information about what happens next between the two trading partners.

Besides Mexican officials and businesses, the summit in Orlando was expected to include participants from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise Florida and representatives from Florida’s seaports, including Port Tampa CEO Paul Anderson and PortMiami director Juan Kuryla.

Mexico and Florida have seen a big increase in trade over the last few years. Just in 2015, there was a 21 percent increase in trade between the two, according to the most recent data available from Enterprise Florida.

Total imports from Mexico to Florida have grown from $2.6 billion in 2013 to $3.2 billion in 2015. Cars have been the top important, growing from $500 million in imports in 2014 to more than $1 billion in 2015.

Mexico has also become the third biggest recipient of Florida exports, driven by more than $500 million in aircraft and aircraft part exports. Overall, Florida exports to Mexico have grown from $1.7 billion in 2013 to $2.1 billion in 2015.

Contact Jeremy Wallace at jwallace@tampbay.com. Follow @JeremySWallace.

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