It is argued that Miami is the Gateway to the Americas. Many claim that there is no better place to do business with Latin America. The numerous major corporations that have set up Latin American headquarters in the city testify to this. Miami is in the international limelight. Of that, there can be little doubt. Yet, the lime light does not shine on the Magic City alone. Right now, the high level of new construction in Panama City is beginning to pull attention away from Miami; particularly with South and Central Americans. This is crucial to consider when realizing that Panama City is also vying to be home to the FTAA’s prestigious secretariat.
The FTAA, with all of its drama, confusion, bickering, and madness, seems to have drifted out of the media’s radar screen. The idea is an idealistic vision for the future of our global community: a 34 nation trade-bloc that comprises a unified democratic hemispheric federation. The Americas, however, is fractured by Socialism, Communism, poverty, civil war, drug wars, and corruption. How can the FTAA form under such erratic political and economic conditions? Entertaining this question is a matter best suited for a later post. Still, for the sake of giving our side of the globe the benefit of the doubt, let us assume that all 34 nations will eventually come to an agreement. Should this monumentally important event come to be, then where shall its official home reside? Lots of folks have different ideas. Although the idea of the FTAA was first officially announced in the 1994 Summit of the Americas in the local Biltmore hotel, Miami is not the undisputed secretariat candidate. No, some categorically oppose Miami’s candidacy; i.e.: Venezuela.
There are over a dozen cities vying for the secretariat position (in the U.S.: Atlanta and Houston to name two ), but it is no longer a pressing matter as to who gets nominations right now; considering that FTAA negotiations have stalled since 2003. Florida FTAA, a group of local business and political leaders, are aggressively promoting Miami’s bid to leaders throughout the Caribbean and Americas as well as increasing awareness about Miami’s unique economic advantages. However, since the FTAA talks have stalled, their activity has decreased and popular interest has waned. This is not to say that lobbying efforts have halted, but they are no longer as consistent and aggressive as before. Meanwhile, Panama City continues to boom—lending credibility to its economic powerhouse claim. The FTAA talks, although stalled, will undoubtedly continue. The Western Hemisphere’s best chance of mitigating the economic influence of the EU, India, and China is through the formation of the FTAA. Its formation will take time, but according to international trade experts, it’s almost inevitable. By the time matters begin to come to fruition, Panama City’s secretariat-seeking position vis-à-vis Miami, might be stronger than ever.
Panama City is a strong FTAA secretariat candidate. The Central American city is near the vital Panama Canal. In terms of geography, it is more centrally located than Miami. It has a large English-speaking population, well-established international banking institutions, and a heavy American influence. Importantly, at a time when many Latin Americans feel skeptical of U.S. interests due to weak and/or inconsistent foreign policy initiatives, they are liable to start looking to Panama City as a viable alternative to Miami. After all, if the popular perception is that the United States doesn’t care about Latin America, then why should Latin American officials nominate an American city to be home to the secretariat? Panama City poses a considerable threat to Miami in this respect. More so than any other city in the hemisphere.
Panama’s capital is seeing major construction activity. This activity is a reflection of high levels of foreign investment, a stabilization of the economy, and organization of the government. There are plans for two 1000+ ft. towers along with several other impressive skyscrapers. Many of the buildings are proposed and not yet under construction and the level of construction does not yet approach that of Miami, but many of the projects have ambitious plans and there is enough activity to earn wide respect.
With the FTAA secretariat in mind, it is BoB: Miami‘s objective to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of Miami’s claim to be the most desirable secretariat candidate compared to Panama City. Panama City will be scrutinized as will Miami. BoB will present both cases and you will see how the Central American city stacks up to the United States’ southernmost metropolis. To be continued…