More than 900 leaders from governments, businesses and academia from across the Caribbean and the Americas met in Atlanta, Georgia, this week to share ideas on expanding trade, prosperity and democratic values in the region. Globalization has the potential to expand horizons for trade at almost every level. However, improving the ability of nations within the Americas to compete in this new global environment may have the greatest potential payback.
The competitiveness forum was the second such session since President George Bush highlighted the need for improving trade relations within the hemisphere at the 2005 Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Four themes were explored: renewable energy and sustainable resources, tourism and travel, education and economic development, and cost-effective, efficient movement of goods. At a time of rising energy costs, logistical advances alone allow nations and their businesses to introduce their goods to new markets.
Because of the press of global competition, jobs that leave a country in the Americas like Brazil or the United States often don't go to another developing country in the hemisphere like Mexico or Haiti. Rather they can migrate to somewhere in Asia or Africa. Understanding this, trade officials are increasingly looking for ways to be more competitive within the hemisphere to keep jobs and growth close to home.
Promoting free trade is one way to accomplish this, but not the sole strategy. Investing more in schools can help develop a well-educated workforce, that itself is a competitive advantage. Institutional reforms are also encouraged, such as improving judicial and tax policies and public administration.