LATIN AMERICAN TRADE BI-ANNUAL - DR-CAFTA just starting to increase trade volumes

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): International Trade  

By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOTAs implementation widens, the Dominican Republic-Central America Free-Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) bodes to further dramatically expand hemispheric commerce, adding to already-growing business opportunities for companies such as South Florida-based All Ports Transport.
All Ports’ president, Fred R. Rivera, said burgeoning cargo volumes directly tied to DR-CAFTA spurred All Ports, a non-vessel-operating common carrier (NVOCC) and customs broker firm, to move to substantially larger quarters last May.
“We took a bigger space to handle the increases in volumes with Central America,” said Rivera, who currently serves as treasurer of the Florida Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association. He will assume the FCBF presidency on April 20.
In May 2006, All Ports moved from a 12,000-square-foot facility with four doors near Miami International Airport to a new, 20,000-square-foot facility with six doors in Medley, an intermodal hub with convenient access to both the Port of Miami-Dade and Broward County’s Port Everglades. The move coordinated with DR-CAFTA’s implementation in El Salvador (March 2006), Honduras and Nicaragua (April 2006) and Guatemala (July 2006).
Guatemala, in particular, has been a rapidly escalating market for All Ports, which handles lots of shipments of automotive parts and accessories, all-terrain vehicles and foodstuffs from South Florida to that Central American nation.
“There’s been a very good growth increase in Guatemala,” Rivera said, “and we’re expecting the same as far as the Dominican Republic.”
DR-CAFTA was formally implemented for the Caribbean island nation of the Dominican Republic on March 1 of this year, and Rivera said a bit of a slowdown occurred in US-Dominican trade from December through February, as clients were holding orders in anticipation of the implementation date.
“Between March and April, we’re seeing the Dominican Republic start to pick up again, back to 2006 levels and with an increase on top of that,” Rivera said.
Shipments of such goods as printing ink and high-end home furnishings are now again heading from Miami to the Dominican Republic, while patio furniture is leading All Ports’ volume in northbound trade from the island nation, according to Rivera.
Top Oil Products Co., an exporter of specialty engine oils and lubricants, is emblematic of the US companies that are cashing in on DR-CAFTA markets. Top Oil has seen volumes escalate with implementation of free-trade agreements, according to Phil Gillies, the company’s director of sales for Latin America.
While Top Oil is headquartered in Burlington, CA, Gillies maintains his office in Miami, which continues to bolster its status as the socioeconomic capital of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Gillies said his firm’s growth has not been limited to DR-CAFTA members, citing an increase for Top Oil’s exports to Chile of between 20% and 25% from 2003 to 2005, following elimination of 12% duties after the signing of the US-Chile Free-Trade Agreement.
Last May, a couple months before Guatemala implemented DR-CAFTA, Gillies took part in a trade mission to Guatemala sponsored by Enterprise Florida Inc., a public-private partnership that serves as the Sunshine State’s official economic development organization. As duties of between 15 and 18% were eliminated on Top Oil products, the company substantially increased the amount of goods it ships to Guatemala, typically by ship from Long Beach to Puerto Quetzal.
“I hope they can get a few more of them [free-trade agreements] in place,” Gillies quipped.
The next country as far as DR-CAFTA is concerned would be Costa Rica, which, while one of the original signators in August 2004, has yet to ratify the agreement. The agreement was approved by the US Senate in June 2005, approved by the House of Representatives in July 2005, and signed into law by President Bush in August 2005.
Although telecommunications union opposition has led to delays, Costa Rica President Oscar Arias is committed to DR-CA

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For more than a quarter of a century, Paul Scott Abbott has been writing and shooting images for the American Journal of Transportation, applying four decades of experience as an award-winning journalist. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, with a master’s magna cum laude from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Abbott has served as president of chapters of the Propeller Club of the United States, Florida Public Relations Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Abbott honed his skills on several daily newspapers, including [em]The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Richmond (Va.) News Leader, Albuquerque Journal and (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, and was editor and publisher of The County Line, a weekly newspaper he founded in suburban Richmond, Va.[/em] A native Chicagoan, he is a member of American Mensa and an ever-optimistic fan of the Chicago Cubs.