- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 20, 2003

The United States is seeking an agreement to foster the growth of small and medium-size businesses at a special summit of the Americas to be held in Mexico next month.

“According to the World Bank, starting a business in Latin America and the Caribbean takes longer than in any other region in the world,” said John Maisto, the U.S. representative to the Organization of American States (OAS).

The summit, where 34 leaders from democratically elected governments in the Western Hemisphere are to meet, will focus on economic growth, social development and democratic governance.

It is to take place in Monterrey, Mexico, Jan. 12-13 as a prelude to the 4th Summit of the Americas to be held in Argentina in 2005.

“Not long after the Quebec summit, it was apparent that changes were taking place in our world and in our hemisphere that would demand the attention of the leaders … earlier than 2005,” Mr. Maisto told reporters last week at the Foreign Press Center in Washington.

He said economics, politics and social forces are part of a “circle that leads to a successful and prosperous and more competitive nation, one by one.”

Mr. Maisto pointed out that a lack of access to credit and the high costs of sending remittances abroad are barriers to starting small and medium-size businesses.

Still, these kinds of enterprises represent about 80 percent of all economic activity in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Fostering small and medium-size enterprises to create jobs, increasing the level of financing opportunities and securing property rights for all are part of the U.S. agenda for the summit, he said.

The announcement of the U.S. agenda occurred the day after the United States and four Central American countries reached a free-trade agreement.

Education, HIV-AIDS and corruption are also part of the U.S. agenda for the Monterrey summit.


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