Atlanta challenging Miami for FTAA headquarters
By John Collins (1)
in Mexico, Panama City and Port of Spain also in race; More prestige than money
involved in final selection."
that President George W. Bush has been granted fast-track powers by the Congress
to negotiate trade agreements, the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA)
will be edging ever closer to its scheduled kickoff in 2005.
by President Bill Clinton at his historic Summit of the Americas in Miami in
1994, the FTAA envisions hemispheric free trade by 2005 among its 34 countries
minus Cuba which is presently excluded.
apparatus to administer the FTAA is to be housed in a permanent secretariat to
be located in a venue yet to be determined. The financial injection into the
host city is estimated at about $2 million of which 75% is provided by the
Inter-American Development Bank and the other 25% by the national and local
governments of where it is to be located. The multiplier effect is considered
much greater because of the visitors and activity it attracts in addition to the
selection of the permanent venue has now accelerated since the approval of
fast-track with the latest entry being Atlanta, Georgia. Previously announced
contenders include Puebla, Mexico, Miami, Panama City and Port of Spain, Trinidad.
temporary secretariat is presently located in Panama City for two years but is
scheduled to move to Mexico City next year for the next two years. It was
located in Miami for two years before Panama City.
Spain emerged earlier this year as a contender and the heads of government of
the 14-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) agreed at their summit in Guyana in
July to collectively support it. With 14 out of the 34 votes of the countries
involved, the CARICOM vote bloc is the largest defined at present but it is
still early in the campaign.
entry of Atlanta is viewed as complicating the bid of Miami which often refers
to itself as the U.S. “Gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean.” But those
who recall Atlanta’s campaign to successfully get the 1994 Olympics know it is a
very strong contender that has to be taken seriously.
Miami a strong contender
a lot going for it as well. It is where the vision of the FTAA was born, it has
a $2 million war chest to help fight its battle and the governor of Florida is
Jeb Bush, brother of the President. Helping direct the campaign is Cuban-born
Antonio Villamil, a Miami economist and consultant, who served President George
Bush 41 as under secretary of Commerce. Also considered a positive factor is
that 56% of Miami’s population is of Latin descent.
a potential negative by some is Miami’s vocal anti-Castro Cuban community but,
since Cuba is not eligible for participation in the FTAA unless political
changes occur there, its powerful business community, although sometimes
divided, would be expected to close ranks in a contest with Atlanta.
Not to be
overlooked are the corporate giants of Atlanta who would strongly support its
candidacy with considerable clout. They include Coca Cola, UPA, Home Depot, Bell
South, Delta Airlines and Turner Broadcasting. “It’s a perfect opportunity for
Atlanta,” said one observer.
quietly been doing its advance work, however. In fact the U.S. Congress has
already adopted a non-binding resolution calling on U.S. trade negotiators to
use “all available means” to secure the permanent FTAA secretariat for Miami. It
was supported by Florida’s entire 34-member Congressional delegation.
the July Caricom summit was open campaigning by delegates in support of both
Panama City and Port of Spain. Although Mexico had a delegation present, if it
was campaigning for Puebla, Mexico, it was doing so in a discreet manner.
Representatives of Miami were no where to be seen.
between two U.S. cities, some observers note, could create a danger for both
resulting in other countries supporting one of the non-U.S. candidates. One sees
the vote of the Dominican Republic (D.R.) as pivotal since it is uncommitted.
While the support of Caricom’s 14 for Port of Spain is not binding permanently
it is viewed as a strong commitment. Central America’s six and South America’s
ten votes are viewed by many as leaning toward Puebla, Mexico or Panama City in
that order. That leaves the D.R. as a holdout nonaligned.
executive director of the present provisional FTAA secretariat in Panama City is
the respected Dominican diplomat Ivan Ogando (CB Dec. 28, 2000). His appointment
to the post enjoyed strong support from throughout the hemisphere.
regional observers point out that it won’t be decided until the final vote is
taken and since it will be secret, the outcome is anyone’s guess right now.
Reportedly Houston, Texas is contemplating jumping into the contest. The next
opportunity to lobby for votes will be at an FTAA high level meeting in Ecuador
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August 11, 2002