Miami gets 'marching orders' in bid for FTAA headquarters
By Susan Stabley
Miami and its rivals hoping to win the Free Trade Area of the Americas headquarters have until March 1 to make their pitches.
Trade ministers from the 34 countries in the Western Hemisphere that would be part of the trade pact must agree by consensus on the secretariat's site. Last week, they released a wish list of what they want from candidate cities.
"In other words, we got our marching orders," said Chuck Cobb, chairman of Florida FTAA Inc., the team pushing to land the headquarters, in a news conference Friday.
With criteria in hand, lobbyists for Miami will "enter the second phase" of promotion, said Florida FTAA Executive Director Jorge Arrizurieta.
Miami will present its qualifications in February during a negotiations committee meeting in Puebla, Mexico, Mr. Arrizurieta said. Gov. Jeb Bush and representatives of Enterprise Florida, the state's economic-development arm, will lead the delegation.
Puebla and Cancun, Mexico, are among 10 cities vying for the secretariat. Also submitting letters of interest were Panama City, Panama; Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Atlanta; Chicago; Colorado Springs; Houston; and Galveston, TX.
Panama is most recently considered Miami's top rival, Mr. Arrizurieta has said. A delegate from Puerto Rico had said last week that the commonwealth would also bid, but it did not submit a letter by the Nov. 20 deadline.
Officials have said that a decision on the location of the secretariat must be made before FTAA negotiations conclude by Dec. 31, 2004.
Miami leaders were host to last week's Americas Business Forum and, for the first time, a mirror event called the Americas Trade and Sustainable Development Forum for groups concerned with issues such as labor, health and the environment. Delegates from both meetings were given 90 minutes Nov. 19 to present recommendations to trade ministers who met the next day on the FTAA treaty.
Trade ministers wrapped up work a day earlier than expected. Miami organizers touted the week as a success in their campaign to land the secretariat despite minor skirmishes between demonstrators and police.
"We want the secretariat here because we deserve it," said Luis Lauredo, lead organizer for the ministerial meetings and the business forum. A decade ago, Mr. Lauredo organized the Summit of the Americas, a gathering of 34 heads of state that sparked negotiations for the FTAA, which would open the Western Hemisphere as a common market. He said last week's events were "pivotal" to Miami's chances.
The cities will be evaluated on transportation structure, hotel accommodations, telecommunications, security, human resources, quality of life and other issues, according to a memorandum from the trade negotiations committee.
Florida FTAA has completed 80% of its research, Mr. Arrizurieta said. Still to be determined is the location of a possible secretariat, he said.
The site is not limited to Miami, said Mr. Cobb. He said Miami Beach and Coral Gables have expressed interest. Ten to 15 possible locations "in South Florida" have been identified, he said, and Broward County is "very possible."
Key will be proximity to hotels and convention space, he said, but the secretariat would not be part of a hotel or any existing building but would need a facility to be developed.
The requirement that the secretariat would have to be close to a hotel will limit locations, said William Talbert, president of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"At the end of the day," he said, "it's a matter of how are you going to finance it."