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2011 Hispanic Heritage Month Events-Opening Luncheon

2011 CHCI Public Policy Conference Opening Luncheon Panel
Building a Stronger International Community

MODERATOR:  Res. Comm. Pedro Pierluisi

Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan, Mexican Ambassador to the United States
Ambassador Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative
Fred Hochberg, Chairman and President, Export-Import Bank of the United States
Luis Alberto Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank

Res. Comm. Pedro Pierluisi Moderates the Opening Luncheon

Rep. Pedro R. Pierluisi (Puerto Rico) addressed his opening remarks as session moderator on Latin America—a region on the move, one that is growing in economic and diplomatic clout.  He noted that the countries in our hemisphere are becoming more connected economically.  For example, Colombia is a democratic country and one of our greatest allies.  Chile has become competitive and financially sound, and Brazil is an important economy that the United States should partner with.

Throughout the region, labor reforms are creating safer working conditions.  In addition, the Obama administration has incorporated labor and environmental standards into all trade agreements under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Putting the value of exports in perspective, Pierluisi said, “Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers live somewhere outside the United States; anything we can do to promote export growth will strengthen our economy.”

Value of Latin American Markets
Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank
, echoed Pierluisi’s statement and put the value of our trading relationships with Latin America into more detailed context.  Latin America could be looking at 4.8 percent growth, resulting in a $10 trillion economic bloc—about the size of China’s economy today.  He cited tremendous export potential for U.S. Hispanic businesses into Latin American markets, but also noted that our nation’s 2.3 million Hispanic businesses seldom think of exporting.  He said one strategy for solving the current economic malaise in the United States is to “export our way out of it” the way Latin America did.

Luis Alberto Moreno Discuss the Value of Latin American Markets
Fred Hochberg of the Export-Import Bank of the United States

Financing Exports
Fred Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States
, explained the bank’s role in helping finance exports by providing guaranteed loans for buyers of American products.  His bank’s work in Latin America goes back to the Pan-American Highway, an important project that built a 30,000-mile road that enhanced trade and created jobs on both sides of the border.  Today, Mexico is the bank’s largest area of focus, while the fastest growing region is Colombia.

Family Ties that Bind Us
Ambassador Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative
, noted that our two top trading partners are Canada and Mexico and that these can serve as a template for trade relationships throughout the hemisphere.  While NAFTA has been a concern with workers in the past, all of our agreements now contain strong labor and environmental elements.

He noted that Latinos have the ability to feel right at home in trading relationships with South America.  They have the opportunity to build historic familial relationships throughout the region.

Ambassador Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative

Pierluisi pointed to Hispanic Americans’ advantage in selling into Latin America because they understand the culture.  In addition, Latin America receives $70 billion each year in remittances from the United States.  For many countries in the hemisphere, this represents up to 30 percent of their GDP.  A challenge for the United States is how to turn this into economic growth.

Mexican Ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan

Arturo Sarukhan, Mexican Ambassador to the United States, echoed the value of the trading relationship between Mexico and the United States, noting that Mexico is the United States’ third largest trading partner and the second largest buyer of U.S. exports.  Today’s total trade relationship is worth $1 billion.  Putting that in perspective, he said that Mexico buys more from the United States than from all of Asia.  Additionally, Mexico ranks as the first or second trade partner for many U.S. states.

Fighting Crime and Increasing Security — Critical for Successful Trade
Sarukhan noted that the keys to the continued enhancement and future prosperity of trade relationships are stronger security and fighting organized crime.  He cited the need for enhanced port security to conduct business and foster trade.  Sarukhan issued one caution though.  While the United States and Mexico need to make sure the borders are secure, it shouldn’t detract from the millions of people who cross them each day to keep our economies flowing.

The second issue to tackle is organized crime.  Transnational crime is working throughout the Americas—drugs move north and cash and guns move south—so the United States must continue fighting organized crime because it corrodes the rule of law, which affects the ability of small- and medium-sized businesses to make a profit.  Sarukhan said that we have to think out of the box. “We’ve been playing whack a mole. When we shut down organized crime in Miami, it moved to Mexico.  Now it’s relocating to Central America and the Caribbean.” He also noted that increasing trade helps to reduce crime by giving people an alternative way to feed their families.

Export Trade Builds Community 
From the panelists’ perspectives, the key to building a stronger international community hinges on several factors. 

  • Hispanic businesses need to consider exporting goods as a business strategy.
  • Banks need to help finance export ventures.
  • Hispanic Americans need to capitalize on the cultural advantage they have by exporting within South American countries.  They should build “familial” relationships with potential partners, especially Mexico which is a strong trading partner.
  • Security and crime remain concerns, but increasing trade may help reduce crime by offering alternative revenue sources to support families.

 View the Photo Gallery from CHCI's Public Policy Conference Opening Luncheon.