Secretariat Backers Seek More Funds For Closing Session
By Candi Calkins
With less than a year left before the temporary Secretariat for the Free Trade Area of the Americas departs Miami, community leaders are seeking an additional $500,000 to ensure a positive impression.
Lynn Summers, executive director of Team Florida FTAA, a private-sector group created to coordinate community support for trade talks, said revised estimates show Miami will spend $3.5 million to meet negotiators’ needs through March 2001.
Community leaders say a positive impression of Miami could improve the city’s chances of winning the permanent Secretariat. Delegates are expected to discuss the location of an administrative headquarters later in the talks, which are expected to end in 2005.
Although the state had originally estimated $3 million over two years to support negotiators from 34 countries hammering out a free trade agreement for the Western Hemisphere, extended sessions planned this fall will require additional staff, translators and other costs as Miami wraps up its term as host.
"One of the things that Team Florida FTAA is focusing extensively on is ensuring that the Miami term ends on a high note," Ms. Summers said, "with absolute compliance with all of the promises made by Miami to secure the Secretariat.
"In fact, we are endeavoring to exceed substantially every one of the promises made by governor Lawton Chiles and Mayor Alex Penelas to obtain the Secretariat."
The county, state and private sector will be called on to fill the $500,000 budget gap, she said.
"We are quite pleased with the progress and the success of the negotiations. We just have to fill the funding gap," Ms. Summers said.
At a recent meeting in Guatemala negotiators agreed to an expanded schedule of negotiations in Miami this fall to ensure that a bracketed text document can be delivered at the next Summit of the Americas, planned for April 2001.
The presence of new presidents from the US, Mexico and other major countries will lend significance to next year’s summit, Ms. Summers said.
"I think they’re definitely making progress," said Jerry Haar, a senior research associate with the University of Miami North-South Center.
Several business facilitation measures already have resulted from trade talks, he said.
"The Free Trade Area of the Americas has reached a point where, in terms of policy, it’s really in many ways doing a holding pattern until a new president of the US goes early with a request for fast-track authority. That will really move things quite a bit," Mr. Haar said.
"As far as the traders are concerned, the real important thing is being done," he said, referring to changes in customs procedures now being implemented in Latin American countries to smooth the flow of trade.
Mr. Haar said he believes Miami has a good chance of winning the permanent Secretariat.
"What Miami has going for it is it’s everybody’s second choice. All the nations Panama, Mexico and everybody are going to be seeking the permanent Secretariat."
Secretary of State Katherine Harris, Hank Adorno "and others are working day and night on this with the kind of vigilance and tenacity that is unparalleled," Mr. Haar said. "I hope that we are successful. By any measure we are the natural place to have this.
"The good thing is if we snag this, hopefully we’ll be able to land other Secretariats and other kinds of coordinating bodies so we can become the Brussels or Geneva in the tropics," Mr. Haar said.
Hugh Simon, under secretary for international affairs under Secretary of State Katherine Harris, said Ms. Harris won important victories in getting the US House of Representatives and Senate to endorse Miami’s quest to gain the permanent Secretariat.
Now, he said, Ms. Harris is working with members of the government’s executive branch as the government expresses the official US view that the permanent Secretariat should be in Miami, Mr. Simon said.
"The US government will be sharing its position with other members of the FTAA," Mr. Simon said. "That’s something that also representatives in Florida make known appropriately when they have foreign contacts in the foreign hemisphere."
Observers agree that election of a new US president will add new impetus to the trade talks. Both presidential candidates publicly support the Free Trade Area of the Americas process.
Ignacio Sanchez, who served on a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce committee dedicate to fast-track authority for the trade talks, said Congress in the past year was preoccupied with China’s favored nation trading status and the World Trade Organization issues.
"Obviously the trade with the Americas is one of the more vital economic engines for South Florida," Mr. Sanchez said.
Progress of the trade talks "will depend on who’s the president and what the makeup of the Congress is," Mr. Sanchez said. "Depending on that outcome we’ll know where it’s going."
He said he believes that whoever is elected "will be very supportive of the Free Trade Area of the Americas." building.