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Application For San Juan Officially Submitted

Puerto Rico Export Council Forwards 55-Page Document To The Free Trade Area Of The Americas Co-Chairmen


March 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico–San Juan, Puerto Rico has officially applied to host the permanent secretariat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA, or ALCA by its Spanish acronym), announced Jose Gonzalez Freyre, chairman of San Juan ALCA 2005.

The document, obtained by CARIBBEAN BUSINESS, was forwarded by the March 1 deadline to ambassadors Peter F. Allgeier of the U.S. and Adhemar G. Bahadian of Brazil, as co-chairmen of the current ministerial round of the FTAA negotiations, said Gonzalez, who is also the secretary of the Puerto Rico Export Council (PREC). He initiated the process in Miami last November on behalf of San Juan.

"All of the cities that are candidates have much to offer," said Gonzalez, quoting the executive summary of the document. "They are all great cities. However, only one can offer what we firmly believe is the most important need for the hometown of the secretariat—NEUTRALITY—this city has a name and it is SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO."

Indicating that their decision to locate the secretariat in San Juan "would be a milestone in our history," the application continues "this great honor would forever leave a positive impact on our economy, our culture and our political development. The people of Puerto Rico will be forever grateful for this great honor."

Describing the competition among the 11 bidding cities as "very close," the document states that only San Juan "holds key and unique elements that are highly valuable for the secretariat."

Why San Juan?

Five elements are cited in the document:

  • Free trade experience: Home of the first and oldest common market of the Americas. We know and understand the languages, requirements, and processes. We are eager to share that expertise with other nations.
  • Neutrality: Not having direct representation at the FTAA, we can keep a neutral stance and not favor any particular interest in the process.
  • Bilingualism: English and Spanish are official languages for education, business, and government.
  • Judicial system: The two legal systems used throughout the hemisphere, the Spanish Civil Code, and the Common Law Tradition, are widely used in our society. We use the Spanish Civil Code in our local courts and the Common Law Tradition in our Federal courts.
  • Our roots: Our 500 year history combines Spanish, African, Indigenous, European, Latin, and Anglo-American cultures. We understand and share the culture of all of the 34 nations in this agreement.

What San Juan offers

The reasons for San Juan to be the location are summarized as:

  • A 113-acre special district available to accommodate the secretariat which is in the center of the city and adjacent to the 500,000 square-foot Convention Center, where meetings will bring delegates from all over the world.
  • Easy access to the all government agencies, all located within three miles.
  • Security is strict because all entrants must clear airport and seaport check points.
  • Two international airports less than five miles from the site.
  • Ten passenger ship terminals within three miles.
  • Affordable housing with 30-year mortgages available at less than 6% annual interest rates.
  • State of the art telecommunications including wireless, fiber optics, satellite, cellular, cable, and roaming services.
  • International banking services with banks from around the world represented in Puerto Rico.
  • History of stable and democratic government with its own constitution since 1952 and elections every four years.
  • Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport is one of the top 40 U.S. airports and top 30 for cargo, serving 44% of the market share in the Caribbean.
  • Its piers accommodate 1.4 million passengers annually and San Juan is the fourth largest container port in the Western Hemisphere.
  • San Juan has nearly 12,000 hotel rooms with excellent support services.

The document contains details highlighting each of these features. At the end, it also refers to "other initiatives" being considered, such as granting excise-tax exemption on all equipment, materials, and official vehicles needed to set up the secretariat; granting tax exemption on income generated by foreign personnel working here; hotel room tax exemption for all government personnel on official secretariat business; 50% reduction on enrollment fees at the University of Puerto Rico for secretariat officers; establishing special school curricula for children of secretariat officers; and assigning police escorts for officers and adopting other special security measures for the secretariat and its environs.

The initiative of the San Juan ALCA Committee has been embraced by San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini and Gov. Sila Calderon, who finally announced her endorsement last week.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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