DR-CAFTA negotiator sees benefits for Gulf

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): International Trade  Ports & Terminals  

By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOTPassage of an expanded free-trade agreement that encompasses Central America should bode well for ports along the US Gulf, according to Nicaragua‚s chief negotiator for such a pact.
“The entire trade and the very life of Central America have gravitated around the Gulf, and we see that relationship and that sort of connection being enhanced and enlarged thanks to CAFTA,” Dr. Carlos Guillermo Sequeira said in a phone interview from his home in Managua.
Sequeira, who holds a doctorate in business administration from Harvard University and is a leader in his nation‚s investment promotion agency, ProNicaragua, added that maritime commercial ties between US Gulf ports and Nicaragua stand to be greatly enhanced with development of modern port facilities on the Caribbean/Atlantic coast of that country.
However, he said, the private investment needed to bring such port facilities to fruition is not expected to come until after implementation of the US-Dominican Republic-Central America Free-Trade Agreement, known as DR-CAFTA, or sometimes simply CAFTA. The pact, which this month continues to advance through US Congress, includes the Caribbean island nation of the Dominican Republic as well as the Central American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
“Nicaragua has to take a step forward to create the port facilities,” Sequeira said. “We lack a full-fledged Atlantic coast port.”
Sequeira said the small Caribbean/Atlantic coast port facility at Rama “will be insufficient” to handle flow of goods. Currently, Nicaraguan goods bound for the US Gulf primarily flow through the ports of neighboring nations, including Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.
The increased cargo flow expected to be spurred by DR-CAFTA would appear to justify development of port facilities on the Nicaraguan coast most readily accessible to the Gulf of Mexico, he said. However, little government money is being made available for such purposes.
“This brings the opportunity for private investment,” Sequeira said. “However, everything is pending on the approval of CAFTA. Most investors are holding their cards close to their chests.”
Sequeira noted that ports along the US Gulf already are gearing up for a boost in trade volumes, particularly with development of additional container-handling infrastructure.
“The port authorities and terminals have a very serious approach,” he said. “For years, the US Gulf has been basically the gateway for Central America into the United States and vice versa.
“You can feel a sense of urgency not only to establish formal ties but to make them even stronger and larger,” he added.
While Miami may have long ago replaced New Orleans as the economic capital of Latin America, the Gulf region continues to play a vital economic role for Central America, he said.
“Geography has placed us as neighbors,” Sequeira said, citing the importance of strengthened economic ties as well as the security-related need to maintain solid relations. “I think CAFTA is even a matter of national security for the United States. You don’t want to be surrounded by poor people who are vulnerable to those who commit evil.”
Sequeira said those who oppose DR-CAFTA should recognize that US jobs will necessarily be lost in economic globalization, but that it is preferable if those jobs remain in the hemisphere, going to countries that buy American goods, rather than to Asian nations that consume far fewer US products.
“Central America as a region is more important in US trade than Russia, India and Indonesia combined. We buy American,” he said. “If you‚re going to lose jobs to China anyway, why don’t you give them to your neighbors instead?”

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For more than a quarter of a century, Paul Scott Abbott has been writing and shooting images for the American Journal of Transportation, applying four decades of experience as an award-winning journalist. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, with a master’s magna cum laude from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Abbott has served as president of chapters of the Propeller Club of the United States, Florida Public Relations Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Abbott honed his skills on several daily newspapers, including [em]The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Richmond (Va.) News Leader, Albuquerque Journal and (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, and was editor and publisher of The County Line, a weekly newspaper he founded in suburban Richmond, Va.[/em] A native Chicagoan, he is a member of American Mensa and an ever-optimistic fan of the Chicago Cubs.