Are Latin America and Caribbean falling behind?
A top Commerce Department official is warning those countries in Latin America and the Caribbean need to improve in areas ranging from education to customs clearance if they are to remain competitive in the global economy.
In an interview published by the State Department's USINFO service, Walter M. Bastian, the Commerce Department's deputy assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere, said those nations will have to make improvements to remain competitive. Bastian conducted the interview during the competition-themed conference presented by private sector organization Caribbean-Central America Action this week in Miami.
'Almost anything can make you more competitive,' he remarked. 'Providing better education, power generation, communications, and better roads and infrastructure' are all ways to help a region compete in the global economy.
But he noted that only one regional university'in Mexico'is ranked on the annual listing of the world's top 200 universities, and studies show there is a lack of private sector-funded university research, one of the 'things that have really benefited the United States.'
He said that while an express airfreight shipment in the U.S. can clear customs, agriculture, and security inspectors in less than 15 minutes, in Latin America and the Caribbean 'it may take you literally months to a product loaded on a ship and out of the port.'
'You can't compete that way,' he commented. 'We're trying to expose people to more efficient ways of doing business.'
The Miami conference is one of a series a events aimed at spurring improved competitiveness that came out of the 2005 Summit of the Americas held in Argentina and attended by President Bush and 33 other elected heads of state from the Americas.