Latin Bank Group Gives Support To Ftaa
By Susan Stabley
The Latin American Banking Federation, with its 700 institutions, is throwing support to the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas but wants its own industry’s issues to be negotiated separately from others.
The federation, known internationally as FELABAN, will participate in next week’s Americas Business Forum, a venue for the private sector to suggest how the free trade pact should be crafted.
The federation will urge trade ministers to add another chapter in the proposed pact exclusively for banking issues. According to a current draft, nine sectors are outlined in the pact, with financial services included under a broader "services" category that also addresses topics from technology and telecommunication to retail and filmmaking.
Starting Monday, hundreds of business leaders from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean will meet at Hyatt Regency Miami for workshops that correspond with the negotiating chapters outlined in the FTAA pact. Trade ministers from 34 countries will then consider recommendations that come out of the workshops during deliberations from Wednesday to Friday.
"The FTAA must be aimed at strengthening the American bloc as a financial-services provider fostering the presence of foreign banks and the channeling of loan funds to the Latin American economies," the federation says in its position paper submitted for the Americas Business Forum.
The banking federation is also concerned about restrictions such as those in the USA Patriot Act that affect services provided by Latin American financial institutions after the 9/11 terror attacks. The federation wants "unnecessary restrictive effects" prevented.
The FTAA agreement, if approved, would benefit Latin banks "in the most obvious way, by increasing the volume of services and trade," said Thomas P. Noonan, president and CEO of BAC Florida Bank in Coral Gables and president of the Florida International Bankers Association.
The 37th annual assembly of FELABAN will be Nov. 24-25 at InterContinental Miami and organized by the Florida International Banker’s Association. Gov. Jeb Bush is slated to be opening speaker.
During the assembly of more than 1,200 bankers from 40 countries, the federation will disclose the results of a study of the expected impact of the FTAA.
"If there is increased prosperity and increased trade in Latin American countries, then that will have a direct effect for banks and other business in Florida," said Pat Roth, the association’s executive director. "It becomes a win-win situation."
Mr. Noonan pointed out an Enterprise Florida study that anticipates more than 89,000 if FTAA is approved and its headquarters lands in Florida. Even if Miami loses in its bid for the secretariat, an increase in banking jobs would occur over three years if the FTAA is approved, he said.
"Look at what happened with Mexico (after passage of the North American Free Trade Act)," he said. "The economy is twice the size it was."