Gov. Scott on trade mission to Columbia

Published On: Dec 03 2012 09:51:54 PM EST

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday began a trade mission to Florida's second largest trading partner and planned a visit Tuesday with Colombian President Juan Manual Santos.

Trade between Florida and the South American nation amounted to more than $9 billion last year, with Florida exporting about $5.3 billion in goods and services and importing about $3.8 billion in Colombian items. Colombia is second only to Brazil as a Florida trading partner.

Colombian imports were up 20 percent in 2011 from the previous year, according to Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development and trade organization. Exports rose more than 18 percent during the same period.

Among Florida's leading exports to Colombia are telecommunications equipment, civilian aircraft parts, office machines, data processing equipment and fertilizer. Colombia in turn, is a major supplier of petroleum products, precious metals and, of course, coffee.

Given a new trade agreement between Colombia and the U.S., Florida's proximity and ongoing improvements to Florida port facilities, Scott said in a statement Sunday that he hopes the Colombian ties will only strengthen.

"With the recent ratification of the Free Trade Agreements, I am convinced that Florida and Colombia?s growing relationship will expand even more," Scott said.

Scott is leading an entourage of 190 government officials and representatives of 114 Florida companies. Scott is expected to meet with Colombian trade officials, U.S. Ambassador P. Michael McKinley and U.S. trade representatives. Scott is scheduled to return Wednesday.

Colombia is the latest stop in what has been an aggressive overseas marketing effort for Scott, who has also visited England, Spain, Israel, Brazil, Canada and Panama since he took office in 2010.

Scott had been scheduled to meet Monday with Santos, but the meeting was postponed.