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Common Economic Concerns Connect Western Hemispheric Nations

By Eric Green

MIAMI — Pressing economic challenges facing the Caribbean Basin are tied directly to the U.S. economy, especially with the official announcement December 1 of data that show the United States is in a recession, the State Department’s Paul Trivelli tells America.gov.

Interviewed at the December 1-3 Miami Conference on the Caribbean and Central America, Trivelli, who is assigned to work with the U.S. Southern Command (Southcom), said global economic problems affect the U.S. demand for Central American products, tourist travel to the Caribbean Basin, and the amount of remittances (money transfers) sent by immigrants working in the United States to their home countries in the Americas.

“Those issues, and probably many others, are going to have an impact” on Central America and the Caribbean because their economies are highly integrated with the United States economy, said Trivelli, who participated in a panel discussion at the Miami conference on economic development in Central America and the Dominican Republic.

The United States is continuing its extensive efforts to help Latin America, says the State Department’s Paul Trivelli.

Caribbean-Central America Action, the Washington-based organizers of the conference, said that even though the Caribbean Basin’s recent performance in development has been its best in decades, the global economic slowdown and the rise in commodity and energy pricing will test how well those economies perform in the coming months and years.

The United States, Trivelli said, has worked extensively in recent years to help its Latin American neighbors through aid and trade agreements. He said participation in the upcoming Summit of the Americas, which will be held in Trinidad and Tobago April 17-19, 2009, and brings together hemispheric presidents, furthers the U.S. commitment to the region.

Trivelli said an important priority for Barack Obama, who takes office as president on January 20, 2009, will be congressional passage of pending U.S. free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama, adding, “I think that will be relatively easy to do.”

NAFTA, CAFTA and similar trade agreements, Trivelli said, are “exactly the kinds of tools that we need to cement growth, reduce poverty and increase trade” in the Caribbean Basin.

Trivelli, the U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua from May 2005 to July 2008 and a veteran of numerous other diplomatic posts in Latin America, is continuing the State Department tradition of having a senior officer work in Miami with Southcom, which is part of the U.S. Defense Department.


Another strong proponent of free trade is FedEx, a shipping company that provides express package delivery to homes and businesses.

FedEx executive Francisco Santeiro told America.gov in an interview at the Miami conference that existing U.S. free-trade agreements with partners worldwide have established a “level of consistency in terms of the regulatory environment” regarding the shipment of packages.

Those agreements create a more stable investment environment, and “the more attractive the country is for investment in trade, the better for us,” said Santeiro, who is managing director for global trade services in FedEx’s Latin America and Caribbean division.

The free-trade pacts also immediately helped FedEx improve the process of clearing its packages through customs, said Santeiro, who participated with Trivelli in the Miami panel discussion.

Santeiro cited Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, two partners in the CAFTA-DR free-trade agreement, for modernizing and streamlining customs procedures. The nations are models for other Latin American countries seeking to make similar reforms, Santeiro said.

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