In an interview with News is my Business, trade group leaders said the plan is to continue lobbying for the creation of Section 933A of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, pursuing an increase in exports, and putting pressure toward getting a highly-anticipated reduction in energy costs.
“We’ve already been to Washington and we know we must continue following up that initiative,” said PRMA Deputy Executive Vice President Roberto Monserrate, expressing optimism about the Puerto Rico Investment and Promotion Act (PRIPA) that promotes creating Section 933A that would give foreign corporations turning domestic special tax considerations.
“What’s positive is that there is a pressing need to reach agreements in Congress to evaluate and make changes to the federal tax system,” Monserrate said. “As part of that process, we need to make sure it includes an initiative to make Puerto Rico competitive and that way be able to compete with the rest of the world.”
“What we’re pursuing is a ‘carve out’ for Puerto Rico. That our specific situation is considered, so that Puerto Rico can be a competitive option for multinationals,” he said, noting a delegation of representatives from the public, private and labor sectors will likely head back to the federal capital at the end of January or early February to continue lobbying for the measure.
Bumping up exports
Meanwhile, PRMA President Pedro Watlington said during the next 12 months, the trade group — along with members of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, the Puerto Rico Products Association, the United Retailers Association and the School of Architects — will move forward with efforts to boost exports.
“We worked hard on promoting entrepreneurship and exports in 2011, with missions to Colombia and the Dominican Republic, which generated $18 million in business transactions,” Watlington said. “What we want is for local businesspeople, who for the most part are young, to lose their fear of exporting, of leaving our 100×35 jurisdiction.”
On this year’s agenda are several more trips, one of which could be a visit to Haiti, he said.
The PRMA will also sit down with the government to discuss possible changes to the Special Incentives on Foreign Shipping initiative approved in September aimed at promoting exports from the small and mid-sized business sector. The incentive seeks to cover a portion of transportation costs to ship goods from Puerto Rico to ports in Jacksonville, Panamá and the Dominican Republic and is currently limited to companies that generate a maximum of $10 million in sales and are dedicated to the production of goods.
“We want to see about getting that cap raised to $20 million, so that we can broaden the field of potential exporters, and we expect to see the fruit of those efforts this year,” Watlington said.
Election year promises
Knowing the promises that come with an election year, PRMA Executive Vice President William Riefkohl said it will come as no surprise to see infrastructure improvements and major developments that “will inevitably help the island and us, as residents.”
Most importantly, the government is expected to make a “genuine effort” to bring down energy costs, something he said should be in the form of “permanent solutions.”
“This is an issue that affects all of us and has increased the cost of living. The problem has greatly affected our competitiveness and we expect to see real attempts to bring down that bill,” he said.