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Miami gets big boost from Washington

By John Collins (1)

FTAA 2003 Ministerial Meeting scheduled for U.S.; venue to be decided in Quito, Ecuador this week.

MIAMI, Florida – As the goal of hemispheric free trade by the year 2005, envisioned in the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), nears, the big stakes involved in where the ministerial summit will be held next year and what city will be chosen as the permanent seat of the secretariat, increase.

Miami is making a big push for both and is getting a big boost from Washington. That doesn’t surprise political observers in Florida because Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is brother of President George W. Bush and the president has been to Florida 11 times this year to bolster the candidacy for reelection of his younger brother.

Of course, the choice of where the FTAA ministerial summit will be held next year and what city will be chosen to be the permanent seat of the secretariat will ultimately be made in a democratic fashion by the 34 countries of the hemisphere.

The immediate challenge for Miami is to snare the FTAA ministerial summit next year, which must be held in the U.S as previously decided. Also determined in advance is that the last summit in 2004 will be held in Brazil.

“When I join my fellow ministers negotiating the FTAA in Quito, I will propose that the U.S. host the next ministerial meeting – in 2003 – and, if our hosts agree, that we do so right here in Miami,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick told the recent Miami Herald Americas Conference (CB Oct. 24).

Considering it a fait accompli, Gov. Bush thanked Zoellick for announcing that the 2003 round of ministerial negotiations will be held in Miami. “It has long been considered the Gateway to the Americas – serving as a cultural, economic and political hub for Latin America and the Caribbean,” said the governor. “The 2003 ministerial negotiations provide us yet another opportunity to showcase our state and why Miami should be the ideal location for the FTAA Permanent (seat).”

As previously reported Atlanta (CB August 22) also wants that second plum, the permanent FTAA headquarters. There are reports that Miami and Atlanta will both be currying favor at the Quito summit, where the decision on the 2003 summit will be made, and are mounting large delegations to achieve their goal of twin prizes.

Atlanta is a late comer to the contest but its candidacy is being pushed by an impressive corporate roster including Delta Airlines. The challenge of Atlanta belatedly resulted in the formation of an alliance in Miami between the local governments and the three major private sector organizations and they are moving ahead at full speed.

Millions of dollars in business

At stake is not just the prestige involved but the resulting millions of dollars that delegates  from throughout the hemisphere will bring with them. “I strongly believe that Miami is the ideal location for the FTAA’s Permanent Secretariat,” said Mayor Manuel A. Diaz. “Miami has long been recognized as one of the great global hubs for trade and commerce, international finance and foreign investment, and is located near major land, air and sea transportation centers.”

Recalling that the FTAA was first conceived in Miami in 1994 during the Summit of the Americas, Diaz said “it will represent around 800 million people and a collective annual gross domestic product of approximately $14 trillion in goods and services, the largest trading bloc in the world.”

While Atlanta is the major challenger to Miami for next year’s summit, it is joined by other candidates vying for the permanent secretariat in 2005. They include Houston, a late starter, and three venues elsewhere in the hemisphere. Mexico reportedly is hardly promoting Puebla but Panama City is conducting a respectable campaign reportedly hoping to be a compromise site if there is a deadlock between the two major U.S. contenders. Although it has the 14 votes of the Caribbean Community members pledged, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad is not viewed as a serious contender.

“Miami’s geographic position, its unsurpassed commercial aviation infrastructure, sophisticated communications, multilingual work force and excellent quality of life make it ideally positioned to serve as ‘the Brussels of the Western Hemisphere,’” said Gov. Bush. “I firmly believe that Miami, with its multi-cultural population hailing from every nation of the Americas and strong cultural ties to the hemisphere, is the city that best reflects the dream of hemispheric integration.”

A number of observers feel that if Miami gets the 2003 ministerial it stands a very strong chance of capturing the permanent secretariat for 2005. They point to the aggressive and targeted posture it is currently maintaining as indicative of what it can do when all of its considerable talents and resources are mustered together, not to mention the support of the Bush administration in Washington. 

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1) Other articles by the well known Caribbean author John Collins can be read at:

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October 27, 2002


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