Miami Herald, 23 July 2005
U.S., Andean Talks Move Forward
Jul. 23 — Trade negotiators from three Andean nations and the United States saw light at the end of the tunnel as they wrapped up five days of trade talks in Miami on Friday.
But they avoided saying that completion of the U.S.-Andean Free Trade Agreement was near. "We’ve made some important progress," said Deputy Chief U.S. Negotiator Bennett M. Harman in a final news conference. "This was a very useful round."
The United States, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have been negotiating a trade accord, which would create a regional free trade area, since last May. Bolivia, the fourth Andean nation, participated as an observer.
While the Andean trade talks drew little attention in the United States, several hundred negotiators, business advisors, lawmakers and journalists from the three Latin American countries came to Miami, a sign of just how important these negotiations are in the region.
The meeting, which took place at the Hotel InterContinental in downtown Miami, drew praise from all the chief negotiators.
"This is the best round that the United States has organized," said Oswaldo Molestina Zavala, Ecuador’s chief negotiator.
The meeting was organized by Friends of US-Andean FTA Round, which was set up by local governments and business groups to host the talks. The group spent roughly $350,000 from both public funds and private donations, according to Jorge L. Arrizurieta, president of Florida FTAA.
Negotiators have finalized four out of 22 chapters to be included in the final accord. The highly contentious issue of opening borders to farm products was not part of the Miami discussions.
"I think we have finally reached the last stage of this negotiation. There is light at the end of the tunnel," said Chief Peruvian Negotiator Pablo de la Flor.
The next round will be held in Colombia at an unspecified date in September, announced the Colombian chief trade negotiator.