Business leads Spain's 2nd landing in Florida

Miami, May 3 (EFE).- Some of Spain's best-known brands were on display Friday in Miami as Florida continued to mark the 500th anniversary of its discovery by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon.

"We are noting a spectacular increase of the Spanish business presence in Miami and that is good: We have always said that the Spanish company has to become international," Spain's secretary of state for trade, Jaime Garcia-Legaz, told Efe.

The secretary traveled to Miami to show official support for Spanish firms in the United States.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, who is in Florida this week for the quincentennial observances, touted Spain's prowess in new industries.

"The most important companies in a sector as innovative as that of renewable energy are Spanish," he told reporters before addressing investors at a forum organized by the Spain-U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

At the forum, Garcia-Margallo pointed to Spain's economic reforms and called for the United States and the European Union to seal a trade and investment accord "as soon as possible."

"It would be the birth certificate of the largest trade area in the world," a development that "would contribute to increasing wealth on both sides of the Atlantic," the foreign minister said.

Scores of executives from Spanish companies - and from U.S. firms with interests in Spain - took part Friday in a business expo aboard the Spanish navy training ship Juan Sebastian Elcano, currently docked in Miami for the Ponce de Leon anniversary.

Five hundred years after the explorer made landfall in Florida, more than 350 Spanish companies have a presence in the state, Garcia-Legaz emphasized to Efe.

Those companies, he said, have invested $6.5 billion and created 18,000 jobs, using Florida "as a gateway to the entire U.S. market."

"It is going very well here for the Spanish firms and they are good ambassadors for Spain, because they have a lot of prestige, deliver very good service and create employment," Garcia-Legaz said. "This allows U.S. society to see Spain in a different way from what the media sometimes disseminate."