As we prepare for our 31st Miami Conference, the countries of the Caribbean & Central America are at a crossroads when it comes to their economic development and the prosperity of their people. For years the argument has been that with integration, these small economies of the Western Hemisphere will finally present themselves as blocs ready for investment.
From the Central American Free Trade Area of 1958 and SICA in 1991, and now CAFTA, it has been a long process for the land connected countries of Central America to embrace cross border trade and investment and move aggressively to solidify their social and economic ties with each other and United States. In the Caribbean, the integration movement began with the Federation in 1958 and has only recently resulted in the Caribbean Single Market, with full integration expected in January 2008. Though at last it seems that the political process has delivered two distinct regions poised for investment & growth, the fundamental questions remains; what are the areas that this region can truly expect investment from?
Can the Caribbean countries encourage major investment in areas other than tourism? For Central America & the Dominican Republic, has CAFTA truly saved an apparel manufacturing industry that was declining? What are the top three areas where each of these blocs can compete? How effectively have they positioned themselves in these areas for future growth? The conference will also address how the consolidation of banking services in the region has affected new investment, especially in the small and medium sized industry. Has this consolidation made access to finance harder? What has prompted Caribbean banks to look to Central America? What of the Free Trade Agreement between the Caribbean & Central America? What new technologies will connect business and societies?
The Conference will focus on the continued high cost of energy in the Caribbean & Central America, notably with regard to the possibilities that bio-fuels and other alternatives allow; and how security, or lack of a comprehensive approach to these issues may serve to hurt these fragile economies. Also on the agenda, with major new investment into the region coming from Europe, does this indicate a cooling by US investors and market to the region; and how effectively has the region been able to position its own interests? Finally, the conference will pilot a matchmaking event, linking US small and midsized businesses to Caribbean & Central American opportunities and partners.
For the past 31 years, the Miami Conference has served as the only forum that focuses solely on the small economies of the Caribbean islands and Central American isthmus, the “CBI” beneficiary countries that make up the Third Border. The conference continues to unite leaders from the public sector, the business community and civil society together in a constructive open dialogue to address issues affecting the region and its economic prospects.
The conference combines major addresses by political leaders with morning workshops on public policy issues such as competitiveness, maritime security, disaster preparedness, and corporate social responsibility. Afternoon industry sector roundtables give participants the opportunity to participate in a series of interactive discussions with subject-matter experts from the United States, Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, and Central America on issues vital to the agribusiness, apparel, energy, financial services, telecommunications, transportation, and tourism industry sectors.
Concurrent to the Miami Conference, CCAA will host a 3-day mini-conference for Health Policy Makers in the Caribbean and Central America, organized in collaboration with Jackson Memorial Hospital. For more information please visit: http://conference.jmhi.org.