Canadian Candor

Canadian Consul General Sylvia Cesaratto’s priorities

Last November, the Canadian Consul General in Miami, Susan Harper, departed for her next posting in Dallas, Texas after more than six years of service in Miami. About a month into her new role, we sat down with the new Consul General, Sylvia Cesaratto, to discuss her position and priorities. Cesaratto, who has worked for the Canadian Foreign Service all over the world (including postings in the UK, Brussels, Belgium, and Panama), is taking over at a time when Canada is now one of Florida’s biggest international economic partners.

What are your primary responsibilities? 

The Consulate General of Canada in Miami is like a mini embassy. We provide consular support to Canadian citizens who travel here and to Canadian companies who want to do business in Florida, but also to those Floridian companies who want to establish relationships with Canada. We also have a foreign policy dimension, where we work on nurturing relationships with key influencers in the political stream and provide advice and analysis back to our headquarters. We do a lot of work together with our U.S. partners here in Florida to address security concerns, such as the presence of organized crime, irregular migration, and the illegal trafficking of guns and narcotics. We want to strengthen what’s happening in the Caribbean but also limit what moves into the States and eventually north into Canada.

What kind of trade relationship do Miami and Canada have? 

Canada and the U.S. share partnerships like no two other countries. At the U.S.-Canada border, there are billions of dollars worth of trade that happens every day. The thing is, we don’t sell things to each other as much [as we] make things together. A perfect example of this is the automotive industry. A car can pass through the border many times before it’s completed. This speaks to our integrated nature. We have been working on strengthening our supply chains, [and] on working together to address the ongoing impact of COVID on our economies. We’ve pledged to work together on irregular migration coming up from Central America. We’re working very closely when it comes to Haiti, which is an emerging crisis and pertinent here in Florida given the large diaspora. 

How important is foreign direct investment to your role? 

We figure there are about 3.5 million Canadians that come to Florida every year. That’s 10 percent of our population and 15 percent of Florida’s. But they don’t only come here to spend a couple of weeks or grab a cruise. Many come to live here for at least six months. That is important in terms of what they bring to the local economy. [Canada is] the biggest foreign investor when it comes to private real estate. In Florida, we estimate there’s a stock of about $60 billion in private property owned by Canadians. And, of course, they pay property taxes, which are about $600 million. Then, we figure they spend about $6.5 billion when they’re here. There are also about 500 Canadian-owned companies in Florida [that] employ about 60,000 Floridians. The bilateral trading relationship is almost $8 billion between Canada and Florida. 

How can the business relationship between Canada and Miami be improved? 

We’re looking to position Canadians to not only come to Miami because there are a lot of opportunities here, but also to look at it as a gateway to Latin America. We also need to get more Floridians up to Canada. Government and non-government organizations are looking to develop trade missions, which is fantastic. But they’re not looking at Canada, though Canada is Florida’s top trading partner. There is a solid foundation from which to build. Canadians come here for the beaches and the sun, but they don’t necessarily think of Florida as a business destination. So that’s also our challenge, to change that perspective and build those partnerships. 

What have been some of the other challenges while working in Miami? 

We have gone up to Tallahassee to ensure that any kind of actions that pertain to protectionism do not become commonplace here in the state. We have seen it in a couple of jurisdictions, so we make sure we are not excluded. It is a partnership; we create things together. There are some domestic actions that don’t consider the impact on their partners, like Canada. And we are so integrated that if it affects Canada, it will ultimately affect Miami.

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