Arrizurieta: Two programs in FTAA bid will be created regardless
By Susan Stabley
A university center of excellence and a ports council promised in Miami's bid to host the Free Trade Area of the Americas will be created whether or not the bid succeeds, says Florida FTAA Inc. Executive Director Jorge Arrizurieta.
Miami has touted its geographic blessings, cultural advantages and gateway status along with a litany of reasons leaders of 34 nations should pick the city as home for the administrative offices of the trade pact over 10 competing cities in the Western Hemisphere.
A flurry of enticements was included in a package consisting of a DVD presentation and a 154-page bilingual book detailing Miami's advantages. The package was unveiled March 1 by Gov. Jeb Bush, Mayor Manny Diaz and leaders of Florida FTAA.
The bid contains outlines for creation of a FTAA-Florida International University Center of Excellence Program and a Caribbean Basin Ports Council Initiative, said Mr. Arrizurieta. Both are considered part of a Hemispheric Cooperation Program designed to create economic opportunities for smaller economies among the 34 nations.
The FIU program would offer training for three years to 3,600 representatives from non-US small and mid-size enterprises through Web-based studies and a weeklong course at an affiliated university and then one week at FIU.
"Much has been said by detractors of the FTAA that this is an agreement that will only benefit multinationals, which is bogus," Mr. Arrizurieta said. "Multinationals already have access to the world marketplace."
The FIU program would help smaller enterprises "reinvent themselves" to compete more fully in the global marketplace by being able to access the FTAA agreement.
Mr. Arrizurieta said work on the program has begun as a collaboration between the state and the city. He said he planned to meet with FIU officials this week to set a plan of action and consider the program's budget. Florida FTAA will provide money to get the project off the ground, he said, and costs are to be determined.
Florida FTAA also has secured $25,000 for the Caribbean initiative through private contributions and Inter-American Development Bank, where Mr. Arrizurieta was US alternative director.
The initiative would create a regional entity that finds funds for port security upgrades at poorer nations. Caribbean Central American Action - a private, non-profit economic development organization - has been working on the initiative with the Florida Ports Council.
Ports are now required to meet international standards for security, training and technology. According to Florida FTAA, "funding is the main limitation for implementing the security requirements."
A state-of-the-art security system has been promised for the secretariat. The highlight of the proposal for FTAA headquarters is renderings of a titanium-and-glass structure by Miami architectural firm Spillis Candela DMJM that is being pitched with a price tag of $12 million to $16 million for 50,000 to 60,000 square feet - covered by public and private money and with no cost to trade ministers. Two waterfront sites were suggested - on Watson Island off MacArthur Causeway and next to Miami City Hall by Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove.
Also pledged in the bid package were:
nImproved protocol services at Miami International Airport for government officials to speed processing through security checkpoints. The proposal touts privacy screening rooms and use of a diplomatic lounge.
Florida FTAA said it would ensure that ministers with diplomatic passports and valid visas would be able to skip security screening when leaving Miami.
Also promised is a designated line for secretariat delegates and staff similar to what was set up during a November gathering of trade ministers in Miami.
"We have committed to that and may be able to do even better with the help of the federal government," Miami-Dade County Aviation Director Angela Gittens said Monday. If federal law enforcement agencies commit staffing to escort FTAA officials, she said, the process would be smoother and quicker.
"Having the special line and privacy rooms really skirts the main issue," she said. "The main issue is reciprocity in the way that diplomats and heads of state are dealt with."
Ms. Gittens said the airport's treatment of international dignitaries would be similar to the treatment US diplomats and officials are treated abroad, adding a level of security that trumps additions to the airport.
nAssurances that Miami would work closely with the trade headquarters to provide measures to deal with natural disasters as well as security breaches. That entails close ties with the city's disaster-management and the county's emergency-management offices, local law enforcement and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
nIn-state tuition for trade delegates, staff and family members. State Rep. Juan Carlos Zapata, a Miami Republican, has introduced a bill that would classify employees of international multilateral organizations resident status for tuition purposes at state schools. The Florida FTAA bid package estimates average annual in-state cost at local universities at $2,770, compared with out-of-state expenses of as much as $13,800.
nUse of a G-1 visa for FTAA delegates and staff and their immediate families and the G-4 visa for secretariat employees and their immediate families. G-status would allow indefinite stays in the US as long as the stay is for FTAA-related work. Delegates would not have to pay US income tax with G-status. No fees for the visa would apply.
nCreation of a liaison office by Florida FTAA that would arrange special rates at host hotels and for official travel, cheaper medical procedures, discounts for telecommunication services, housing assistance and banking services. The office would be used to promote area art, culture and recreation and legal services in disputes among FTAA nations.