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San Juan Could Join The Race: Eleventh-Hour Rush To Snare FTAA Secretariat


November 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

While Miami has been the leading candidate for designation as the permanent site for the secretariat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), Chicago; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Cancun, Mexico, have now joined Atlanta and Houston as serious contenders. In addition, there are several other candidates that were already in the race, including Panama City, Panama; Port of Spain, Trinidad; and Puebla, Mexico.

CARIBBEAN BUSINESS has learned that a number of local business leaders, concerned about the as-yet-undefined role of Puerto Rico in the FTAA, are conducting a behind-the-scenes campaign to add San Juan to the list. They are convinced that Puerto Rico would be an ideal candidate and a better one than some of those already on the list. In order for the idea to fly, Gov. Sila Calderon and other local officials would have to submit an application for consideration by Brazil and the U.S., the current co-chairs of the FTAA negotiations. The deadline is Nov. 20, and the contest is expected to be a top subject of discussion at next week’s FTAA ministerial summit in Miami. The final decision, to be reached by consensus, will require the support of 18 of the nations in the FTAA.

The private-sector initiative to promote the candidacy of San Juan is reportedly supported by Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Milton Segarra and Promoexport Executive Director Antonio Sosa Pascual. For the idea to become a reality, it must be translated into a formal application by the governor and other local officials and forwarded to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, who is attending next week’s summit. Calderon recently met in Washington with Zoellick, who has praised the potential role of Puerto Rico as a partner in the FTAA strategy.

As CARIBBEAN BUSINESS goes to press, the governor, who reportedly likes the idea, is insisting that a crucial factor in initiating such an application would be the strong support of the private sector. A number of private-sector leaders said they are enthusiastic about the idea, but they are hesitant to go public out of respect for the governor and are awaiting her decision.

"This is exactly the shot in the arm we need to ensure that Puerto Rico is inserted into the FTAA deliberations," said a prominent manufacturer. "When I see Colorado Springs among others on the list, I ask myself where is Puerto Rico in all of this?" said a San Juan hotelier.

"I realize it’s late in the contest, but we have so much more to offer and a lot more at stake than some of the other candidates," said another businessman. "We’re in the Caribbean and in Latin America as well as being part of the U.S. We not only have a lot of air connections but many other advantages as well."

A number of experts familiar with the process to select the secretariat venue point out there is quite a list of criteria that cities applying have to meet before they can be included on the shortlist. "San Juan, because of its location, bilingual and bicultural character, and tourism infrastructure, would be a formidable candidate and should go for it," said a Washington observer. "Some of the candidates won’t even make it to the final list because they’re already in trouble."

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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