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Americas Conference Focused on Free Trade, Growth and Regional Integration; Latin America's Global Competitiveness Examined by Key Political, Economic Figures from the Region.

MIAMI -- The Ninth Annual Miami Herald Americas Conference focused on free trade and regional integration during its opening day yesterday. Several speakers and panels focused on China's interest in the region, and its likely impact. Jiang Shixue, Deputy Director of the Institute of Latin American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told the audience that China's intentions are economic, not political. Jose Maria Ayuso, executive vice-president of VISA International lead a panel on remittances in Latin America, considered an important issue in the economies of the region. "In 2004, more than $45,000 billion was sent to Latin America and the Caribbean in the form of remittances," said Ayuso, with the Dominican Republic and El Salvador topping the list.

President of Guyana Bharrat Jagdeo called for developed countries to approach the particularities that poorer markets face with flexibility when negotiating free trade agreements. Jagdeo discussed preferential treatment that could phase out over time. "We are not asking for a free ride, we just want transition periods to adapt to new international trade rules," concluded Jagdeo. "It is a big disadvantage to smaller countries that can't achieve the economies of scale that allow them to compete with more established markets," he said.

In contrast to Maisto, Argentina's ambassador to the OAS, Rodolfo Gil, said many Latin Americans regret having believed that economic reforms would help them share in the American dream. "We have witnessed further exclusion, poverty and alienation," he said. This, in turn, has slowed efforts to integrate trade and reduce barriers. This result represents an obstacle for the signing and passing of the summit's final accord.

Panamanian president Martin Torrijos wrapped up the day's program by highlighting the key role his country plays as headquarters of the Panama Canal, a cornerstone of world trade. Referring to recent protests in his country surrounding social security reform, Torrijos said current efforts at dialogue are aimed at reaching an agreement and preserving political stability. He added that Panama "hoped to achieve fiscal balance by 2007" as well as economic growth of 6 percent.

More information on the conference, write to americasconference@mia.bm.com.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Sep 30, 2005
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