In this 2008 interview, Chilean Economic Minister Hugo Lavados says competitiveness is built into the fabric of Chile's economy, so its capital city, Santiago, is a logical choice for the forum's first venture outside Atlanta and the U.S.

Luz Borrero, the city of Atlanta’s deputy chief operating officer, and Alex Mejia, executive director of CIFAL Atlanta, are to travel to Santiago, Chile, April 25 to assist organizers of the 2009 Americas Competitiveness Forum.

Atlanta hosted the forum for the last two years and will host it again in 2010.

Ms. Borrero, who is originally from Colombia and Mr. Mejia, who is originally from Ecuador, were both actively involved in the previous Atlanta forums. They are to spend three days helping the Chileans organize this year’s event, which will be held September 27-29.

The forums are designed to bring together public and private sector leaders from countries throughout the Western Hemisphere to exchange ideas about making their economies more competitive.

“What they want is to understand the logistical problems we faced and how we solved them,” Ms. Borrero told GlobalAtlanta. “We need to ensure that we have another great event.” 

An estimated 1,000 people attended last year’s forum in Atlanta, which featured the presidents of Guatemala, Colombia and El Salvador.

Although the agenda for the Santiago event in September has not been finalized, Ms. Borrero said the broad conference goals remain the same: promoting competition as the path to prosperity, exchanging ideas that spark innovation and regional cooperation and making connections with trading partners throughout the hemisphere.

“It is all about ensuring a larger vision, a more hemispheric approach,” said Ms. Borrero, a native of Colombia.

Mr. Mejia said his advice to the Chileans is to make sure the conference strikes a public-private balance. “What I keep telling them is don’t make it too much of a government meeting,” he said.

At CIFAL, a United Nations-sanctioned program, Mr. Mejia provides training in the Western Hemisphere for both government and the private sector leaders.

Mr. Mejia said the April 25 Chilean trip will also be a chance to promote Atlanta at a time when many cities are cutting back on international travel because of the slow economy. There are meetings scheduled with both government and business leaders in Chile, he said.

“Atlanta wants to promote its presence in Latin America even in the middle of the economic crisis,” he said. “We will continue to promote Atlanta as the cosmopolitan city that it is and continue to promote international trade and commerce.” Mr. Mejia plans to attend the September forum in Chile as part of a delegation from Georgia.

In an interview with GlobalAtlanta last year, Walter Bastian, deputy U.S. commerce secretary and one of the key organizers of the competitiveness forum, said the Chilean government demonstrated a strong desire to be the host in 2009 and promised funding to back it up.

“The Chileans get it,” said Mr. Bastian, who recently returned to Atlanta for the Georgia Tech Global Business Forum on Brazil. “They understand the value of trade and how important it is to their economy.”

Also in an interview during last year’s conference, Chilean Economic Minister Hugo Lavados told GlobalAtlanta his country has “competitiveness extremely embedded in our system.  We have the largest network of free trade agreements in the world.  We have free trade agreements with 57 countries. That means that our economy is fully open.”

Each year, the conference adds to its database of contacts throughout the hemisphere which countries share as a resource for trade and other issues, said Ms. Borrero. “We will build on these events,” she said. 

A growing and long-lasting relationship with Latin America leads to tangible results for Atlanta, said Mr. Mejia. “Many business leads have come out of that database,” he said. 

For more information on the 2009 conference, click here.