Negotiations to include Chile into Nafta are the latest signs that a free trade area extending from Alaska to Argentina is rapidly becoming a reality, said Sam Zamarripa, a Georgia delegate to the Western Hemisphere Trade and Commerce Forum held in Denver July 1-2.

But looking beyond Chile’s adhesion to Nafta, Mr. Zamarripa returned to Atlanta anticipating that a Hemispheric agreement will be reached and have a greater economic impact than the coming together of the European Community in 1993  — “dwarfing the EC agreement in historic significance.”

“Just to be enthusiastic about the meeting would be shortsighted,” said Mr. Zamarripa, a vice president in Atlanta for Columbus-based Diaz-Verson Capital Investment, Inc. and founder of the Zamarripa Group, an international consulting firm. “But when you look at the bilateral relationships that are developing and the work that is being done by the WTO, Mercosul, the Group of Three and the Andean Pact, you have to be impressed by the expertise and the deliberate approach,” he said, referring to multilateral trade accords.

Government cabinet-level delegates agreed in Denver that they should start working on the creation of a hemisphere-wide customs union by 2005, to be called the Free Trade Area of the Americas.  Meanwhile, officials from the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Chile confirmed that they would meet in Mexico City on July 25 to start negotiating Chile’s entrance into an expanded Nafta.

 The goals of the forum were not what most impressed Mr. Zamarripa, however. Rather, he was struck by the amount of activity that currently is taking place to create a single free trade zone.  “Multinational companies are expanding throughout the hemisphere, and they are creating a new trading bloc,” he said.

For more information, call Mr. Zamarripa at (404) 614-0400.