Free Trade Area Agreement hinges on Miami's November meetings, organizers say.
By Susan Stabley
November's gathering of trade ministers from throughout the Western Hemisphere is critical to passage of a free-trade agreement among 34 nations, said former ambassador Luis Lauredo, organizer of the Miami meeting.
"It is the most important - not because it is in Miami but because it is the final opportunity for an impact in negotiations," Mr. Lauredo told business leaders Tuesday at New Radisson Hotel Miami in a seminar hosted by the Doral and Airport West Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Foreign Trade Association.
With a mandate to have a Free Trade Area of the Americas pact signed by Dec. 31, 2004, Mr. Lauredo said, trade ministers when here will focus on the pact's most contentious issues - agriculture, transparency within government procurement, intellectual property and rules of investment. While much is agreed upon, consensus will be difficult on issues that are not, he said.
The FTAA agreement also would address market access, competition policy, services, dispute settlement and subsidies and anti-dumping rules.
The issues are to be hashed out during the Miami meeting, the eighth since 1994's Summit of the Americas, where heads of state from countries in the Western Hemisphere except Cuba agreed to create a free-trade area, the largest in the world. That event also was in Miami and organized by Mr. Lauredo.
The intent of the FTAA is to combat poverty by providing economic development, he said.
The Eighth Americas Business Forum, at which business leaders will provide input on the pact, will run Nov. 17-19 at the James L. Knight Center, with the Free Trade Area of the Americas meetings following Nov. 20-21 at Hotel InterContinental Miami.