Hemisphere Inc. is to target Georgia‘s neighboring states and Latin America‘s weaker economies, in lieu of more industrialized nations such as Brazil, in its marketing campaign to attract the Free Trade Area of the Americas secretariat to Atlanta, according to José Ignacio González, Hemisphere Inc. director.

The strategy is aimed at diffusing Atlanta’s main competition for the secretariat, Miami, Fla. and Panama City, Panama, he told members of the Mexican American Business Chamber during a meeting, Aug. 21.  The address was Mr. González’s first official speaking engagement as director of Hemisphere Inc., the marketing arm of Atlanta’s FTAA initiative, since his appointment by Gov. Sonny Perdue this month.

Atlanta’s strong corporate infrastructure is its key strength over Panama City, which lacks comparable company presence and a well-networked university system, he said.  Latin America’s less-industrialized nations are thus more likely to support an FTAA secretariat candidate that could provide catalysts for economic development throughout the continent, he explained.

Mr. González added that meetings between Georgia officials and their counterparts in Alabama, Louisiana, North and South Carolina and Tennessee were a challenge to Miami, which, though the de-facto gateway to Latin America in the United States, has made little effort to reach out to surrounding states.

“These states will benefit if the FTAA secretariat is located in Atlanta,” he noted.  “We are looking at these individual states and how they can be helped.”

            In response to questions regarding the role of Atlanta’s Latino community in the FTAA marketing process, Mr. González said Hemisphere Inc. would shy away from a heavy focus on Latino organizations in Atlanta, which, though active and growing, are clearly not as strong as counterparts in Miami or Panama City.

            The chambers and advocacy groups definitely have a part to play in the process, but their presence here will be a secondary rather than focal point in Hemisphere Inc.’s marketing to Latin America, he explained.

            He also said the vice ministers of trade from the FTAA voting countries, based on discussions held in July, last week submitted recommendations for the criteria an FTAA secretariat city should meet.  Once the information is made public, Atlanta will work to meet the criteria in preparation for the FTAA ministerial, to be held in Miami in November, where it will formally present its FTAA candidacy, Mr. González said.

            For more information, contact the Mexican chamber at (770) 441-7581.