Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Puerto Rico Economic Development Secretary in Washington to seek support

By on August 20, 2019

Economic Development Secretary Manuel Laboy (CyberNews)

Looks to strengthen manufacturing alliances, meet with Treasury, Transportation officials

SAN JUAN – The secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC by its Spanish acronym), Manuel Laboy Rivera, traveled to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, to hold meetings with federal officials, as well as to take part in a conference, where he will share with representatives of other U.S. jurisdictions the achievements and lessons learned in Puerto Rico during the past year .

Laboy is attending the Policy Academy on Strengthening Your State’s Manufacturers, a National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program organized by the State Science and Technology Institute and the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness.

“During my participation in this MEP event, I will highlight the current efforts to give new impetus to local businesses, focused on developing an entrepreneurial culture and creating a technology transfer program to strengthen the production of new knowledge in universities, such as what the Science and Technology Trust develops. Puerto Rico has solid engineering programs as a basis for introducing more innovative techniques in existing companies, as well as newly created ones, and it is important to make these efforts known,” Laboy Rivera said in a statement.

The official explained that one of the results of the island’s participation in the Academy is that it has increased support through manufacturing ecosystems “and it is expected to grow even more.” Another benefit has been communication with representatives of other participating jurisdictions and their willingness to collaborate.

Laboy also said that during his stay in Washington, he will meet with Transportation Department officials to follow up on a request made in June, to provide Puerto Rico an exemption for the transfer of international cargo to the United States, to combine domestic and international cargo, as was given to Guam, the Mariana Islands and Alaska.

“I will follow up the request, clarify doubts, provide more information if necessary and see where we are on the matter. We believe we have a great opportunity and a very solid case, discussed and supported by the Fiscal Control Board, to foster economic growth. There is already precedent with two territories and one state,” he added.

If approved, the exemption would allow the airports of Carolina, Aguadilla and Ponce to transfer more international air cargo and passengers, increasing international trade, transportation and tourism, the secretary’s release said.

He faces some resistance from the Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA) regarding Puerto Rico’s request for extraordinary exemption relief. ALPA reportedly says the request is opposed by several labor organizations and carriers, the Centre for Aviation (CAPA) reports, adding that ALPA said Puerto Rico‘s best opportunity for regaining its former hub status is by improving its attractiveness to carriers that can provide international and domestic service, rather than catering to foreign carriers.

“Additionally, ALPA stated Puerto Rico‘s request for flexibility already exists under open skies, adding it believes Puerto Rico‘s application is the first step in a campaign to obtain cabotage relief for foreign carrier hub operations at San Juan. ALPA urges the [Transportation Department] to deny Puerto Rico‘s request for exemption authority,” CAPA reports.

Finally, the official indicated that he will meet with Treasury officials to discuss the federal tax reform and its impact on the island. The release adds that he will promote the investment benefits of the Opportunity Zones program in Puerto Rico.

—CyberNews contributed to this report.