Friday, April 11, 2008

Cleveland and Costa Rica strike import deal

Cleveland Mayor Frank JacksonCLEVELAND (AP) - The city and Costa Rica have struck a deal to use Cleveland's Lake Erie port as an entry point for coffee, tea, pineapples and other imports from the central American nation.

Under the deal, a dozen Costa Rican companies will distribute their U.S. exports to the Midwest through the St. Lawrence Seaway and Cleveland.

Mayor Frank Jackson's office said Friday the deal was made when Jackson visited Costa Rica this week as part of a three-day trip arranged by the Cleveland Foundation to promote business.

The mayor said Costa Rica will open a Midwest trade headquarters in Cleveland with the goal of moving 25 percent of its U.S. exports through Ohio.

Adam Wasserman, president and chief executive of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, said the deal dovetails with plans to market the ports at Cleveland and Hamilton, Ontario, as distribution points for international shippers.

Wasserman said he envisions oceangoing ships docking in Halifax, Nova Scotia, or other East Coast cities and smaller ships bringing the cargo through the seaway to Hamilton and Cleveland.

Costa Rica exported $3.8 billion to the United States in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Many Costa Rican goods are shipped to the port in Miami but Cleveland officials contend that Costa Rican companies can more efficiently export through Ohio.

Ships need an extra seven days to reach Ohio from central America, but the longer shipping time will be offset by Cleveland's less-crowded port and proximity to population centers, city officials said.

Jackson said he couldn't estimate the value of the trade deal and acknowledged that the trade office and operations of the export companies will create few jobs to start.

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