In the run-up to his first meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago this week, President Trump hinted on Twitter that the two world leaders would engage in some tough discussions.
“The meeting next week with China will be a very difficult one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits and job losses,” the president said in a series of tweets on March 30. “American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives.”
South Florida real estate professionals courting Chinese investors are hoping Trump softens his stance by the time Jinping gets to Mar-a-Lago, the private club that has become such a center of power for Trump and those close to him that it is dubbed the “Winter White House.”
“It is in our economic interest that there not be any breakdown in trading and doing business with China,” said Ronald Fieldstone, a partner at Arnstein and Lehr. “You would hope that a strong trading alliance, no restrictions on travel and limited currency controls on China’s part come out of these talks.”
While Chinese investment in South Florida real estate is not as big a force as it is in markets such as New York and Los Angeles, interest in the market here has been steadily increasing over the past two years, said Fieldstone, who specializes in EB-5 visa funded projects. EB-5 capital has become a big catalyst of Chinese real estate investment in the U.S., with Chinese investors putting up to $4 billion into real estate projects through the program in 2015, according to data from Rosen Consulting Group.
“There’s been a lot of movement of Chinese capital coming to South Florida, some of it through the EB-5 visa program,” Fieldstone added. “You want to keep that moving ahead.”
Brokers that see wealthy Chinese as potential buyers for South Florida condos hope that the international publicity will spur interest in their product.
“I have about 25 Mandarin-speaking people who work for ISG,” said Craig Studnicky, principal at International Sales Group. “They are completely stoked by this visit from the president of China to Palm Beach. It will raise awareness about South Florida in the eyes of the Chinese for sure.”
Lauren Cohen, founder of e-Council, a consulting firm specializing in EB-5 projects, said that “Chinese EB-5 investors, in general, look at New York and the West Coast first, but some do invest in projects in South Florida,” she said. “[Jinping’s visit] could definitely put Palm Beach on the map.”
Cohen expects the mood at Mar-a-Lago to be informal and relaxed, despite the heavy topics on the table such as North Korea and missile testing.
“The only negative is if the president mistreated Jinping or does something that is not appropriate,” she said. “I don’t foresee that happening.”