Miamis Bid For Ftaa Headquarters In Danger Experts Say
By Susan Stabley
The dissolution of a prominent policy think tank and apathy in South Florida’s business community endanger Greater Miami’s bid to be headquarters for a proposed Western Hemispheric free trade pact, warn local leaders and international experts.
Losing the University of Miami’s Dante B. Fascell North-South Center would be a "travesty" that hurts the area’s image and sends a bad message, Dr. Eduardo Gamarra, director of the Latin American & Caribbean Center at Florida International University, said.
The North-South Center is a policy and research think tank focusing on the Western Hemisphere and founded in 1984. In September, UM officials said 12 of its 13-member staff will be laid off and the center will be restructured.
"We have absolutely no intention of letting the center die," according to a letter by executive vice president and provost Luis Glaser released to Miami Today.
Other obstacles to Miami-Dade County obtaining the secretariat include difficulties in obtaining visas and inadequate funds to train the state’s workforce. All were identified in a workshop this week.
Speakers implored the Miami business community to get involved or lose its claim as the Gateway to the Americas, including Enterprise Florida President/CEO Darrell Kelley, who cautioned: "Don’t rest on our laurels."
But Tony Villamil, vice chairman of Florida FTAA Inc., the non-profit group lobbying for Miami at the trade headquarters for the Free Trade Area of the Americas, said Tuesday that he believes UM’s statement that it will "simply reconstitute the North-South Center and that it will continue."
"We cannot lose the ties to the Caribbean and Latin America that the North-South Center has built over the years," said Dr. Villamil. "If we were to lose it, obviously it would not be a positive for Miami’s quest."