FIU, Florida business leaders ponder China relationships

While the Trump administration and China continue to exchange barbs — with China just days ago announcing proposed tariff increases on more than $60 billion worth of goods in retaliation for new U.S. tariffs — Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg was in the nation’s capital to discuss what he considers to be the vitally important relationship the university maintains with its program in China.

For 13 years, FIU has had a study abroad program in Tianjin, a major port city in northeastern China about an hour and a half from the capital city of Beijing. Tianjin is home to the largest FIU program in China and has a current enrollment of more than 1,000 students.

The so-called tariff war shouldn’t have any effect, Rosenberg told the Caplin News. “As far as our relationships in China, at this point, we do not see any direct impact at all.”

Rosenberg added that FIU’s mission is to make sure its students can learn about the culture in China and meet Chinese students through the university’s program there because it is beneficial in driving mutual cooperation and understanding to best facilitate a “cooperative world, not a conflicted world.”

“I want more FIU students to do study abroad in China, I want more interaction between students from China and students from FIU,” he said.

Rosenberg recently traveled to China. He said he is working with school officials to keep its current relationship and expand study abroad programs in China.

“The Chinese university officials with whom we were dealing with were very intent on making sure that we understood that they wanted to have tighter relations with us. They didn’t give me any indication that they were going to allow the bilateral, diplomatic and commercial concerns to get in the way of closer relationships,” said Rosenberg.

More than 25 members of both the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce were also at the gathering with Rosenberg at FIU’s Washington venue, and the business leaders took a more cautioned and wait-and-see view of what the U.S.-Chinese tariff spat would mean for South Florida commerce. China is the third-largest market for U.S. goods and services, and the United States is China’s largest trading partner. Even before China announced its tariff increase, exports from the United States to China in the first three months of 2019 have gone down compared to the same time period last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

According to PortMiami import/export figures, China is the port’s top trading country, with 48 percent of all shipments at that port coming from China. Fourteen percent of all exports from the port go to China. PortMiami is one of the largest cargo ports in the United States, and trade from China through PortMiami has taken a hit in last few months.

“Increased tariffs on Chinese imports will lead to lower imports of Chinese goods,” said William Zarit, an advisor on international business and a former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China. “If these imports are not substituted with imports from other countries, the net result should be less activity at the PortMiami. Chinese retaliatory tariffs will lead to less exports to China, again leading to less port activity.”

If a trade agreement between the United States and China is not reached soon, the tariff increases could go into effect as soon as next month. Talks between the two countries are currently stalled.

William Prego is a reporter in the Caplin News’s Washington, D.C., Bureau.

William Prego is a senior at Florida International University, studying journalism. He takes pride in writing and reporting news that must be heard and read by those who seek information. William is dedicated to providing insightful and inspirational writing to the South Florida community.