First China-Puerto Rico Forum Kicks Off
SAN JUAN – With China’s rapid economic growth over the past 15 years, and its rising direct investments from high-net-worth individuals and private businesses, Chinese investors are providing opportunities for Puerto Rico to showcase itself as they look overseas for their next investment projects.
Puerto Rico is hosting the First China-Puerto Rico Investment Forum at the Pedro Rosselló Convention Center in San Juan. The invitation-only activity is the first organized by Yingke Caribbean China Center, which was established by the Yingke Law Firm, the largest international commercial law firm from Beijing, whose goal is to bring Chinese investments to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
During the event, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló received the Distinguished Contribution Award between the United States and China, presented by the China U.S. Business Association. The award is a recognition that was also given to former President George H.W. Bush. According to the association, each of the winners “has had great achievements in their respective professional fields and has shown an unparalleled commitment and dedication to the ties and friendship between China and the United States.”
“With this initiative, we continue to generate new international business and take advantage of the existing investments. In this way, we let the world know that Puerto Rico is open for business and that way we’ll push the island’s economic development,” Rosselló said in his keynote speech.
Manuel Laboy Rivera, secretary of the Economic Development & Commerce Department (DDEC), noted that in 2016, China invested $50 billion in the United States and globally, which is a number that is expected to go up this year.
“Some 140 million Chinese visited the United States and, in 2017, that number will go up. We want to grab a market share of those millions that will be investing in and visiting the United States,” Laboy Rivera said. “We want to capture that participation.”
There is a relatively large Chinese community in Puerto Rico of about 17,000 people. The book by college Prof. José Lee Borges, “Los chinos en Puerto Rico,” shows 350 Chinese people were first brought in from Cuba in the 19th century to work on the construction of a road.
Laboy, however, said DDEC does not have numbers about how much the high-net-worth Chinese investors have invested in Puerto Rico. Through Yingke, which has a large portfolio of big Chinese firms, hopes to attract high-net-worth investors with capital for projects.
“We do have some Chinese investment. There is a tire factory owned by a Chinese national in San Lorenzo. They do have a business presence. But now we want to do investments in a systematic way,” he said.
Chinese investors are looking overseas for their next investments since China’s growing economy is the second-largest in the world, only behind the United States. The Chinese are not only exploring Puerto Rico but are also seeking to set foot in the Caribbean region as their next wave of foreign investments.
The much-anticipated event had more than 150 Chinese investors and entrepreneurs registered to attend the event at the Puerto Rico Convention Center. The top executives and professionals were carrying out discussions and networking sessions. The conference allows participants to establish contacts and learn about potential investment opportunities as well as possible funding leads.
Jeff Carmichael, Caribbean Region CEO for the Yingke Caribbean China Center, said the event is an opportunity for the Chinese people to know where Puerto Rico is located since most are unfamiliar with the island.
“We are real excited about this event. It is an opportunity for the Chinese to know where Puerto Rico is. They don’t know it is affiliated with the United States…. Our goal at Yingke is to be able to create jobs,” he said.