Rosselló: ‘Ni hao,’ Puerto Rico is open for business
SAN JUAN – With a “ni hao,” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló began the announcement of what will be the first China-Puerto Rico Investment Forum, an event in which his administration aims to attract part of the more than $100 billion the Asian country will invest globally in the immediate future.
“This is a great opportunity. Last year, China invested over $50 billion in the United States, and $102 billion in external investments […] This is added value that we could capture in Puerto Rico,” explained the governor, adding that he expects that amount to increase considerably within the next few years.
“We are inviting partners from China to get to know Puerto Rico and its assets, to then further the next steps toward investment,” Rosselló said during a press conference at La Fortaleza.
The event, which will be part of a series of conferences carried out across the island that aim to attract foreign investment, will take place in Isla Grande’s Convention Center, from March 1 to 3. The island’s governor said he expects 75 Chinese business people to participate.
Once more, Rosselló assured the idea is to show the world that things have changed in Puerto Rico and that the island is open for business. He added that the will present investors a map of Puerto Rico’s assets to present and facilitate investment projects across the island.
For his part, Economic Development Secretary Manuel Laboy indicated that “the possibility of investment in…infrastructure and technology, such as [Ponce’s] Port of the Americas, and [former Naval Base] Roosevelt Roads.”
Saying that Puerto Rico must act, Rosselló addesd that “we are left with great assets, such as Roosevelt Roads, which keep depreciating, when we could develop them.”
The governor was accompanied by several executives of Yingke Ecosystem, China’s largest firm and second largest globally, who serve as the main contact on the island for Chinese investors. According to Fortaleza, the event will also have the collaboration of Banco Popular and Putnam Investments, an investment fund created by Nicholas Prouty.
Besides opportunities in infrastructure development, the initiative also seeks to boost tourism. This would include travel offers to residents in China so they can experience “a tropical climate” as part of a visit to the United States without the need for additional visas, Rosselló explained.
“A lot of people in China don’t even know where Puerto Rico is. We are starting to educate them,” said Jeff Carmichael, executive director of Caribbean China Center when speaking about the initiative to promote travel packages to the island.
The governor also noted the opportunity of attracting Chinese students to the island, using as an example plans to establish a film school on the island, which would address the need of multiple Chinese students.
“Students in China represent hundreds of thousands of people […] Along with them, comes investment […] and all types of related economic activity,” Carmichael said, adding that major setbacks with President Donald Trump’s public policy on foreign travelers aren’t expected.
Meanwhile, Rosselló spoke about his experience in China, which he assured wasn’t related to his administration’s current efforts, including holding the forum for investors.
“I was able to observe the business atmosphere there […] and what they are looking to invest in […] The other great opportunity I saw is they come to invest big time, and this can help solve problems and create jobs,” the governor said.
Rosselló, who will be recognized during the event with the Fourth Prize of Distinguished Contribution from the United States and China granted by the Chinese Business association in the United States, said that although these may seem like “simple things, but the opening, dialogue, and the fact that we are taking action are elements that add to investors’ trust.”