A Sunny Outlook for the AmericasBy Kathleen C. Barclay
The Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and the Caribbean held its 2011 planning meeting in Miami, Florida, on February 2-4 in conjunction with its annual “Outlook for the Americas” conference.
Amcham Chile’s CEO Jaime Bazan led the Chilean delegation which included Nora Balzarotti, head of the Research Department, and Kathleen Barclay, past Chair of AACCLA and Chair of the bUSiness CHILE Editorial Board.
The optimism of the participants was palpable. In general, with a few notable exceptions, vibrant democracies are flourishing in the region and economic growth is strong with a favorable outlook for 2011. These sentiments were shared by the speakers at the conference which immediately followed the planning session. These included Dr. Susan Kaufman Purcell, Director of the University of Miami’s Center for Hemispheric Policy, and Dr. Jeffrey Schott, Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
AACCLA reaffirmed its commitment to a work program focused on trade agreements, trade facilitation, intellectual property protection, promoting respect for the rule of law and highlighting the contribution of U.S. business to the region’s economic and social development.
The delegates were upbeat regarding near term progress on pending U.S. trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. They also saw President Obama’s visit to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador in March as a positive signal for U.S. relations with Latin America and the Caribbean.
However, the association believes continued focus is necessary on improving the global competitiveness of the region and on security issues – particularly related to drug trafficking.
With respect to this latter point, General Douglas Fraser, head of the U.S. Southern Command, gave a briefing on the work being done to monitor and control the drug trade – an area of interest and concern for all participants. General Fraser highlighted his interest in working with the private sector and governments of the region to effectively address this issue.
Building on General Fraser’s invitation, AACCLA will be developing a private sector security conference to work more closely on these matters and to promote best practices and regional collaboration.
Competitiveness was a topic of interest throughout the three days of meetings. The depreciation of the U.S. dollar, as well as the rise of China and other Asian economies, makes increasing competitiveness an imperative for countries in the region. Dr. Purcell and Dr. Schott raised this point in their remarks, emphasizing the importance of innovation and education to boost competitiveness.
Keynote speaker Eduardo Solórzano, President and CEO for Wal-Mart Latin America, described his company’s efforts to ensure long-term business sustainability. He said Wal-Mart’s concept of sustainability goes beyond being a good corporate citizen as it seeks to reduce energy consumption, packaging and environmental impacts while working with the full supply chain to ensure its suppliers meet sustainability standards.
The discussion regarding sustainability, which is closely related to the competitiveness issue, led AACCLA to consider developing its own project to promote best practices in the region and inform members and policymakers.
The closing speech was given by José Fernandez, Assistant Secretary of Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, who explained new U.S. strategies in the region including using remittances to Central America for development projects, working with women entrepreneurs in Peru, and anti-corruption programs.
Finally, AACCLA was pleased to welcome Ambassador Craig Kelly to the Chair’s Advisory Council. Ambassador Kelly recently retired as Deputy Head of Western Hemisphere Affairs of the U.S. Department of State to join The Cohen Group as Vice President leading their Latin American practice. He was the U.S. Ambassador to Chile from 2004 to 2007.
Kathleen C. Barclay is past chair of AACCLA, principal of the consulting firm Asesorias KCB Ltda., and chair of bUSiness CHILE’s Editorial Board.