Second Americas Competitiveness Forum to Convene in August
The Department of Commerce is moving ahead with plans for the Americas Competitiveness Forum 2008, an event designed to improve trade relationships and to create prosperity throughout the Americas.
by Pierce Nixon
Leaders from governments, businesses, and educational institutions across the Americas will come together on August 17–19, 2008, in Atlanta, Georgia, to find ways to expand trade, prosperity, education, and democratic values. Once together, the leaders may find that the most difficult phase of their effort—getting started—has already taken place.
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Shortly after the November 2005 Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, President George W. Bush announced plans for a high-level meeting of government and business leaders from across the Western Hemisphere. Eighteen months later, on June 11, 2007, Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez convened the first Americas Competitiveness Forum (ACF 2007) in Atlanta, Georgia.
At ACF 2007, roughly 1,000 government ministers, business executives, academics, and non-profit leaders from 30 countries met to engage in a dynamic discussion on innovative ways to create jobs, to fight poverty, and to strengthen democratic governance in the Americas. ACF 2007 highlighted best practices from regional, national, and local experiences, and it created a unique opportunity to gain insight into emerging investment opportunities in the region.
Four Themes for Economic Cooperation in the Americas
ACF 2008 seeks to capitalize on the success of last year’s meeting and to expand its focus into new areas. The forum will emphasize four themes: the opportunities in renewable energy and sustainability, the importance of tourism and travel, the relationships between business and education, and the role of logistics in international trade. ACF 2008 will also feature market opportunity sessions that will highlight real business opportunities in many countries throughout the Americas.
A 2006 study by the Economics and Statistics Administration found that increases in energy costs reduce firms’ productivity and cause slow growth across markets. Companies specializing in wholesale trade were found to be the most at risk. To address market opportunities in renewable energy and sustainable resources, ACF 2008 will have panel discussions that look at ways to minimize negative effects through collaboration and investment. Concurrent events will showcase ways to secure sustainable water supplies, to bring methane to markets, and to build public–private alliances for sustainability.
A program that focuses on tourism and travel in the Americas will help attendees learn ways to understand consumer attitudes, branding, green hotel operations, and sustainable investment strategies. In addition, that track will identify market trends in financing and best practices in cooperative marketing techniques for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Several panels will discuss the benefits of well-structured partnerships between businesses and academia by examining ways that countries can leverage those partnerships to enhance entrepreneurship, innovation, and the development of national competitiveness strategies.
Finally, a focus on trade logistics will look at increasing competitiveness by helping leaders find ways to move goods more efficiently across borders at a minimum cost to exporters and distributors. That lower cost will allow companies to introduce their goods to new markets. A 2007 report by McKinsey and Company estimated that 80 percent of global goods will cross international borders by 2020. Firms that have a full understanding of the logistics of international trade will stay ahead in that environment.
Growing Regional Trade
U.S. trade to Canada and Latin America has grown significantly in recent years. In 2007, total U.S. exports to Latin America increased by 20 percent over 2006, reaching more than $100 billion for the first time. As recent free trade agreements, such as the Dominican Republic–Central America–United States Free Trade Agreement, the United States–Peru Trade Promotion Agreement, and the proposed free trade agreement with Colombia, become strong components of corporate export strategies, events such as ACF 2008 will play an even more important role in helping U.S. businesses take advantage of emerging market opportunities.
A Continuing Effort
When government and business leaders from 30 American nations met for ACF 2007, Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez announced the urgent need for cooperation across the Western Hemisphere to overcome obstacles that prevent trade and to increase economic benefits by spreading the effects of democracy.
“Our vision for the Western Hemisphere is one of growth and prosperity,” said Gutierrez. “Growth strengthens the delivery of true social justice, which we believe is about giving everyone an equal opportunity to succeed.”
Pierce Nixon is an intern with the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs.
For More Information
ACF 2008 is being organized by the Department of Commerce; the city of Atlanta, Georgia; and the International Training Center for Government Authorities, which is a non-profit organization created by the United Nations.
Registration for ACF 2008 is already under way for government representatives, non-profit organizations, and private-sector participants. For more information about ACF 2008, including registration and sponsorship opportunities, and to see the ACF 2007 “Summary Report,” visit the ACF 2008 Web site at www.competitivenessforum.com.