Leigh Miller for GlobalAtlanta
Despite stymied free trade talks between the United States and Ecuador, Georgia companies like Conner’s Florist & Gifts Inc. in Morrow and Southside Seafood Co. in Lake City are still anxious to conduct business with Ecuadorian partners, said Grant Wainscott, director of economic development for the city of Morrow.
Mr. Wainscott, who is also president of the Morrow Business and Tourism Association, was part of a state trade delegation that visited Ecuador June 8-13 aboard the inaugural Delta Air Lines Inc. flight to Quito and Guayaquil on June 8.
The U.S. pulled out of negotiations with Ecuador to form a free trade agreement following the Ecuadorian government’s seizure of U.S.-operated oil fields there last month and the April passage of a hydrocarbons law to renegotiate contracts with foreign investors in that sector. But Mr. Wainscott said he is not concerned because Georgia companies are still interested in Ecuador and vice versa.
“Growers and suppliers in countries don’t have the luxury to get caught up in politics. They have to grow, ship and sell their products regardless of challenges in global politics. They just continue to do the best they can,” he told GlobalAtlanta in an interview following the mission that he attended on behalf of the Clayton County International Promotions Council, which is part of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce.
In Ecuador, Mr. Wainscott and the rest of the Georgia delegation met with Ecuador’s vice president, Nicanor Serrano. Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Craig Lesser and Hemisphere Inc. Executive Director Jose Ignacio Gonzalez also met Ecuadorian President Alfredo Palacio.
Mr. Wainscott also had business meetings with CORPEI, the trade and investment branch of the Ecuadorian government, to make contacts for Conner’s Florist owner Kevin Martin and to find potential suppliers for six to eight types of fish needed by Southside Seafood.
Delta’s new flight will be an advantage for Georgia companies like these that need to transport perishable cargo, including fresh flowers and fish, from Ecuador to Atlanta, Mr. Wainscott said.
“Delta’s daily flight really wraps this up in a great package. Businesspeople, tourists and perishables cargo can now move easily between here and Ecuador,” he said.
Mr. Wainscott added that passengers on the June 8 flight were a “good mix” of tourists, Ecuadorian nationals, tour groups and businesspeople. Though some did not realize it was the inaugural flight, they booked it because they were “thrilled” to find a route that did not have to take them through Miami to reach Ecuador, he said.
The flight will also bring more Ecuadorians to Atlanta, Mr. Wainscott predicted, noting that while most South Americans know Miami, New York, Chicago and Washington. Atlanta is still an emerging city. “So they’re curious, especially businesspeople,” he said.
How many business travelers and tourists the new flight will bring to Atlanta and Clayton County is still to be determined, but Mr. Wainscott said he sees “nothing but increased business and travel” between to the regions.
The Ecuadorians he spoke with on the flight and those who attended a seminar in Quito on June 12 about business and tourism opportunities in Georgia had “no idea” that Atlanta had the world’s busiest airport, nor about the city’s arts, sports or culture, but they “really are interested,” Mr. Wainscott said.
He added that he spoke to various Ecuadorians about Clayton County’s Spivey Hall, which hosts artists’ shows and participates in cultural and educational exchanges. With the help of Ecuador’s honorary consul in Atlanta, Patricia Boezio, such exchanges would “foster the right type of global commerce exchanges,” Mr. Wainscott said.
In Ecuador, the Georgia delegation held cocktail receptions sponsored by Delta in Quito at the residence of U.S. Ambassador Linda Jewell, and in Guayaquil at the Banker’s Club.
The group also met with the mayor of Quito, Paco Moncayo, and the mayor of Guayaquil, Jaime Nebot, as well as Ecuador’s Metropolitan Corp. of Tourism.
Mr. Lesser invited the president to visit Atlanta with a business delegation, while Mr. Palacio renewed his commitment to pursuing a free trade agreement, according to Hemisphere Inc.
Contact Kristina Field at Hemisphere Inc. for more information about the trade mission at (404) 962-4834. Contact Mr. Wainscott at (678) 758-4198 or firstname.lastname@example.org.