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Foreign Investment, Thorny Issue For Some South Florida Republicans

Amanda Rabines
U.S. congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (second from left) next to General Richard E. Hawley (second from right) joins leaders from the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC), a non-profit that promotes foreign investment.

U.S. congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, one of the first local Republican congressman to endorse Donald Trump, found himself in an awkward place during a luncheon in Coral Gables, on Tuesday.

Diaz-Balart was the featured speaker at a lunch at the Biltmore hotel sponsored by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a non-profit dedicated to promote foreign investment. In front of nearly a hundred foreign business leaders and non-profits, Diaz-Balart spoke about investing overseas - something the president’s administration has not been too keen on.

“Much of this trade from here goes to Latin America, to South America, and we need always continue to try to strive to grow that gateway,” Diaz-Balart said.

At the luncheon, Diaz-Balart stressed that it is a good idea for the United States to invest in foreign aid because it benefits national security. He also debunked the idea that foreign aid is a big expense in the national budget: according to the U.S. Representative it only represents 1% of the expenditure.

“These funds are not just important in the diplomatic sense, they’re crucial for our national security interests,” Diaz-Balart said. “With engagement overseas we remind our allies, and our enemies, that America will continue to lead - and we must lead.”

But, President Donald Trump has continuously expressed his preference to invest in national businesses, and strengthen borders.

After his speech, WLRN asked Diaz-Balart if the two concepts clashed.

“No. Look, every country defends its border one way or the other. One of the things that I’m hoping we can do is develop trade deals with a number of different allies, different countries, and if you look at the countries that we have trade deals - we do well,” Diaz Balart said.

His speech was interrupted briefly by a protester, Tomás Kennedy, who demanded the congressman hold a town hall.

“What about your community,” Kennedy yelled. Kennedy said he was upset with the congressman for speaking at an exclusive luncheon, “for the one percent,” instead of meeting with constituents during congressional recess week.

He says he was also confused by Diaz-Balart’s discordant stance.

“He sounded much more in line with what Hillary Clinton’s economic vision of the world would be. It was just really confusing,” Kennedy said.

After the protester was escorted out, Diaz-Balart shared his intent to ask for more money to fight for matters like Zika, and his efforts to plan for more bilateral trade deals in ally countries.