Mexico's Cancun sued by company planning China goods expo center

MEXICO CITY Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:43pm EDT

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A company seeking to launch the largest showcase of Chinese goods in the Americas has sued Mexico's beach resort city of Cancun to overcome a political impasse and break ground on the controversial $180 million project.

Dragon Mart Cancun, which aims to create an expo center for Chinese goods in one of the biggest destinations for U.S. tourists, filed the suit to force the city to decide whether to grant a building permit, Chief Executive Juan Carlos Lopez said.

"We want to get politics out of this (issue)... We are going with a method in which we will have certainty about the timing," Lopez told Reuters. The permit decision has been pending since early March.

The complex, if built, would allow some 1,000 companies - including roughly 500 from China - to target the Americas with everything from jewelry and toys to farm equipment. It is expected to be completed 16 months after construction starts.

But it has sparked an outcry from business groups fearful of dumping, while environmentalists warned it would endanger nearby coral reefs.

Lopez dismisses the accusations, arguing that the project will create 8,550 jobs and let Latin America's No. 2 economy become a key center for growing East-West commerce.

"I've never seen a project attacked for such absurd things," he said, noting that the Chinese vendors have not even arrived and will be heavily scrutinized after the splash of media attention. "Ultimately, it's business," he added.

The project is 90 percent Mexican-owned and will get 10 percent of its funds from privately held Chinese firm Chinamex.

The lawsuit, which was filed last week in Quintana Roo's Superior Court, would be settled in four months at the most, Lopez predicted.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Eric Walsh)