Council to Host Private Sector Forum at IberoAmerican Summit in Costa Rica


Ramón Zertuche
Program Manager, Latin American & Caribbean
Inter-American Economic Council
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WASHINGTON, DC: The fight against Corruption, the Promotion of Transparency and Free Trade are some of the themes that will figure prominently in this year's Business Forum at the IberoAmerican Summit of Heads of State and Heads of Government, according to the President of the Inter-American Economic Council Barry Featherman.

Featherman made the announcement in a press conference following his return from San Jose, Costa Rica. The Council is scheduled to convene a Regional Meeting of Investors and Businessmen on Nov. 18, 2004 in San Jose.

In a letter to Featherman, His Excellency Abel Pacheco, President of Costa Rica wrote, "I take note of the interest of your Council in organizing a Regional Meeting of Investors and Businesspersons as part of the XIV IberoAmerican Summit of Heads of State and Heads of Government scheduled to take place in November in San Jose, Costa Rica. I agree with you that it is important to take advantage of international meetings of high level government officials to organize parallel activities for the private sector of the Hemisphere. Given the foregoing, it will be an honor for my Government to sponsor this event and collaborate in every way possible to ensure its success."

Featherman expressed his gratitude to President Pacheco. Featherman noted that this forum will serve as an important follow-up to last year's IberoAmerican Summit Business Forum that the Council organized under the auspices of the government of Bolivia in collaboration with President Mesa and Foreign Minister Siles.

Featherman noted that last year's IberoAmerican Summit keynote address was delivered by Kofi Annan, "It is important to recognize that Kofi Annan was one of the first leaders to emphasize the importance of providing a seat at the table for civil society and the private sector at important international meetings. Moreover, Ecuador's Foreign Minister Patricio Zuquilanda emphasized the need to promote transparency and fight corruption during his remarks at the Council's business forum at the IberoAmerican Summit last year and at the subsequent Forum organized by the Council at the OAS General Assembly Meeting under his auspices in June. We were delighted last year that the government of Bolivia recognized the importance of organizing this event at the IberoAmerican Summit and we congratulate President Pacheco for collaborating with the Inter-American Economic Council on this Business Forum at the IberoAmerican Summit."

In fact, a suggestion at last year's Business Forum for the establishment of a permanent secretariat for the IberoAmerican Summit was ultimately incorporated into the Summit Mandates and appears in a summary of the Council Program in the Summit Memoirs.

Featherman noted that issues of importance to Central America will figure prominently, such as the U.S. Central America Free Trade Agreement. He noted that many Central American governments will be pleased that they and the private sector will have an opportunity to interact with Members of the U.S. Congress at the Forum. Featherman also noted that issues of importance to all of Latin America will also be emphasized. These include the establishment of transparent regulatory regimes that will serve to bring greater investment to the region. Featherman also stated that, "the fight against corruption will figure prominently in our discussions."

Furthermore, he stated that given the fact that education will be a key theme of the Summit, the Council is delighted that Mrs. Harriet Fulbright, the Ambassador of the Fulbright Scholarship Program and widow of the late Senator William J. Fulbright will deliver remarks. This key meeting will also provide an opportunity to review the prospects for trade and economic integration throughout the Western Hemisphere.

The Council President noted that high level ministerial delegations from every Latin American Country plus Portugal and Spain will begin arriving in Costa Rica during the second week of November. The Council has asked President Pacheco to Inaugurate the Sessions.

"The Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Heads of Government in Costa Rica is another key component of our Organization's efforts to bring more investment to Latin America," said Featherman. "We are fully committed to promoting democracy, fighting corruption and realizing the potential opportunity that the CAFTA and FTAA offers the Hemisphere, by providing a forum for Heads of Government and the Hemisphere's Foreign Ministers to ensure that the CAFTA facilitates economic growth and development in all the sectors."

This key meeting in Costa Rica will also enable the heads of state and government to hear private sector viewpoints on trade and investment in the hemisphere. It will be the only opportunity for the private sector and civil society to interact with the government leaders at the summit and therefore is a critical meeting for the region's business and civil society leaders.

Featherman thanked the Government of Costa Rica for holding this type of forum and he also paid tribute to partners of the meeting including Costa Rica President Abel Pacheco.

About the Council
The Council's goal is to work with sub-regional groups within Latin America including the Andean Initiative and the Caribbean Initiative to facilitate understanding and greater sensitivity and appreciation of specific regional issues. The Council will use the occasion of the IberoAmerican Summit to launch its Central America Inititative, which will feature a series of programs designed to promote investment and alleviate poverty in the region. The Council has cooperative agreements with the Organization of American States signed by the Council President with Dr. Cesar Gaviria in June of 2000 and the Caribbean Development Bank signed by President Featherman with Dr. Compton Bourne last December. This year and last, the Council has held programs under the auspices of the Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador , St. Lucia and Suriname. The most recent program was held under the auspices of the President, the Foreign Minister and the Trade Minister of Ecuador at the General Assembly Meeting of the Organization of American States in Quito, Ecuador. The Council is chaired by His Excellency Ambassador Christopher Thomas, the former Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States.

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