Local officials praised the announcement last week that the Sumaq Summit will be held in Atlanta May 4-5 as further evidence of the city's desire to be the headquarters for the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The summit is to bring together representatives of eight leading universities in Latin America and Spain with senior executives of U.S. and Latin American companies. Topics to be discussed include corporate governance issues, diversity, social sustainability, low income markets, remittances and investments from a Latin American perspective.

“To have a process of growth you have to have an intellectual foundation,” Jose Ignacio Gonzalez, the president of Hemisphere Inc., which is coordinating the bid for the secretariat, said during a press conference at the Omni Hotel downtown. Craig Lesser, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, also praised the event that will focus on winning strategies for doing business in Latin America and developing commercial relations between the U.S. and Latin America and Spain. Ernesto Gore, dean of Universidad de San Andres in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Marcos Gorgojo, executive director of the alliance organizing the summit, said they view the summit as an important event in the development of a regional trading block in the Western Hemisphere. Michael Peck, president of MAPA Inc., a consulting firm with offices in Washington and Madrid, Spain, described the support that Georgia officials including Gov. Sonny Perdue, Atlanta-based companies and universities have provided the summit. Mr. Gonzalez, who recently returned from visiting officials in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, compared the evolution of the free trade area with quilt-making saying that bilateral agreements would eventually bring the region together as well as broader multilateral agreements. Philip Merrill, president and chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are keynote speakers scheduled for the event. The registration fee to attend the two-day event is $1,300. To learn more about the summit, call (800) 319-3367 or visit www.sumaq.org