Council of Americas looking at a Miami home
By Lou Ortiz
The Council of the Americas may soon have a permanent home in Miami, which would make the city a top contender for the secretariat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
The free-trade advocacy organization is seriously considering opening an office in Miami to consolidate its operations and better serve its members, said Nancy Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Council.
"It's our intent and desire to consolidate our presence, and Miami is a very important market for the Council," she said.
The organization, with offices in New York and Washington, DC, promotes free trade and democracy via open markets in South America, the Caribbean, Canada and Mexico.
The Council's membership boasts more than 200 corporations, including some big-name, blue-chip companies in the US such as Coca-Cola, IBM and Microsoft.
Ms. Anderson said the Council holds private meetings and roundtables on trade and economic issues monthly with important members of its organization in Miami.
"We remain committed to a presence in Miami and how we can better serve our members," she said.
Brian Dean, executive director of Free Trade Area of the Americas Florida, said a permanent Council presence here would add to Miami's stature as the financial and business center for Latin America.
"Certainly, when you get an organization with the prestige of the Council of the Americas it just helps build and is a stepping stone for Miami" becoming the secretariat, or headquarters, of FTAA.
The FTAA consists of 34 countries in the Western Hemisphere, which came together in 1994 to create a free trade area with the purpose of economic integration and reducing or eliminating trade barriers in the Americas.
The group's members include big countries such as Brazil and Argentina and smaller ones like Dominica and St. Lucia. In 2003, US trade with FTAA countries totaled $715.5 billion, including $437.8 billion in imports, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.
The secretariat of the FTAA would be the center of the group's operations.
Ambler Moss, a professor of International studies at the University of Miami, said having the Council here is a natural for the organization, because it's one of the premier organizations promoting business ties between the US and Latin America.
Mr. Dean said that two of three cities vying for secretariat — Atlanta and Panama City, Panama — have mothballed their ambitions for the spot, and "Miami remains the last person standing for secretariat."
A Council office here "gives more credibility to Miami' and the city becoming the secretariat, said Marjorie Kean, a recruiter with the executive search firm of Edward W. Kelley & Partners, who for 30 years has worked with firms tied to Latin America.
"Miami has really made it as the capital of Latin America," she said. "I look at it as a business person who provides services for companies in Latin America."