A day before the Nov. 8 election, a pair of Latin American legal experts warned a Donald Trump presidency would have a negative impact on South Florida’s real estate market, cautioning that investors from the region would no longer feel welcome in the U.S.
Akerman LLP partners Luis A. Perez and Pedro A. Freyre told The Real Deal the billionaire New York developer’s anti-trade, anti-immigration policies would severely damage Miami’s development as a gateway to Latin America. Perez and Freyre were among the featured speakers at the annual ALM-Akerman U.S. Latin America Legal Summit, held Monday inside the Four Seasons Hotel Miami at 1435 Brickell Avenue.
“A victory by Trump would mean more restrictions and more scrutiny of money coming in,” Perez said. “If he prevails, Latin Americans would see it as the U.S. rejecting investments and immigration originating from Latin America. That would have a profound impact in Miami.”
Freyre echoed Perez’s comments. “Trump’s proposed policies send the message that the U.S. is not interested in building bridges to Latin America,” Freyre said.
The summit, dubbed Key Transformational Moments in Latin America: A Region in Flux, focused on the obstacles and opportunities in countries struggling to reposition their floundering economies including Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela.
Keynote speaker and Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Richard Feinberg kicked off the summit by noting that relations between the U.S. and several Latin American nations have improved under the Obama administration. He highlighted the progress the U.S. government has made in normalizing relations with Cuba. Five other panels focused on new anti-money laundering and other banking regulations, international trade and litigation trends in the Western Hemisphere.
Nevertheless, Perez said Miami’s real estate market has really not been impacted by more government scrutiny – such as the Treasury Department’s new rules requiring title companies to reveal the identities of all cash buyers of luxury condos in Miami and Manhattan. “Money that is transparent and can be traced to a legitimate source is not much of a problem,” Perez said. “I think investment continues to come into Miami. Just look at the level of construction that is still going on.”
Freyre said Miami continues attracting investors from Argentina, Colombia and Venezuela who are financing the development of commercial buildings. “We are still seeing capital flight from these places, although it’s not as prevalent as it was three, four years ago,” he said. “But the U.S., particularly Miami, remains a good place for Latin Americans to invest.”
During the international trade panel discussion, Juan Pablo de Luca, a partner with the Argentinian law firm Rattagan Macchiavello and Arocena, said his country’s new president, Mauricio Macri, is committed to undoing policies of the previous Kirchner administration that sent the national economy into a recession, restricted foreign investment and made it difficult for Argentinians to move their money to other countries.
“The new administration has set ambitious goals in several areas to create favorable economic conditions,” de Luca said. “However, it’s not easy to change a lot of years of detrimental policies.”
After the panel, de Luca told TRD that Miami is poised to benefit from Argentina’s transformation as more companies will look to south Florida to establish their U.S. operations. “Things are getting better,” de Luca said. “But it’s still early.”