Political talk and rhetoric are old things in the relationship between the USA and the rest of the American Continent countries. But will this time be different?
The idea of the American Continent as an economic block facing the rest of the world has merit. Canada, Mexico, Chile and the USA now have such a block. But it seems the Bush Administration are making mutterings of expanding the effort to include the whole small block of the seven Central American countries ( including Belize? - Belize usually gets ignored by international arrangements with the USA )
It is a mistake to ignore the total impact of trade with the USA of the total island Caribbean countries. Individually they are small, but together they are huge. The same can be said of Central American countries! Individually their economies are neglible in USA trade figures. But as a Central American block, the story is different.
For example: Despite a lot of what the Yankees call poverty ( we believe it is just a different cultural outlooks and living style of tropics, versus temperate zone environments ) the Central American block of seven countries have 36 million people. They buy and sell nearly $20 billion worth of goods and services a year with the huge Federal United States of America.
In fact, half of what the economic trade is with China, is equal to the trade with the Central American seven country block. Just think of that! The small Central American seven, grouped together economicall,y equal half ( 50% ) the USA trade with the huge country of China. Another interesting statistic: This seven country block buys from the USA, more than what the countries of Chile, Colombia and Peru COMBINED, buy from the USA. This trade brings a huge number of jobs to small businesses with southern border states of Texas, New Mexico, California and Florida. Mostly Florida.
Washington's efforts toward hemispheric trade liberalization with the rest of the countries of the Caribbean and Central and South America ( the American continent ) have stumbled many times through different political regimes. There are many skeptics today in South America and the Caribbean about FREE TRADE as being one sided. But at least the Bush Administration is thinking about it, and giving some small attention to the matter. Will anything serious happen with the Central American block? Will it become part of NAFTA?
Global terrorism is also bringing the realization in Washington that our strength is going to be an organized block of American Continental countries. And probably the block of small seven Central American countries as a unit are one way to go for quick progress.
Formal talks start next week, in mid January, 2003. From the Central American viewpoint, these talks are more about patronage free political paid vacation trips than any serious work. Skepticism abounds about deals with Washington. History teaches such cynicism.
Some troubles to be faced are the disparities in Central American countries. The only ones with the political systems and work ethics coupled with population dynamics that would have a good advantage are; Costa Rica and El Salvador. Guatemala is seen by Washington as a black hole of a mafia criminal run bandit government in which corruption, murder and extortion are normal means of running the country. There is doubt that Guatemala could gain any advantage? While Belize is seen as too small individually, it is becoming a rapidly expanding vacation spot for Americans. Belize is also one of the seven countries of Central America, despite the ignorance of much of the USA media and Washington bureaucrats.
Trade negotiations start in Washington on Jan. 8th, 2003 and proceed to Costa Rica in the last week in January. Nine meetings in total are being set up for this year.