Central America countries are getting serious about cross-border promotion unification through the formation of a new group designed to promote the region as a contiguous block. The group, tentatively named, Network of Investment Promotion Agencies of Central America, has established a charter and held its first meeting in Managua in September.
“We know that before competing among ourselves, we must first compete with other regions of the world, such as India and the Philippines, in order to gain investors’ attention,” says Javier Chamorro, executive director of PRONicaragua. “This requires the collaborative efforts of the region’s countries through the use of investment promotion best practices and the sharing of innovative tools and mechanisms.
Chamorro spoke passionately about the regional cluster theme during a recent investors forum, held in connection with a United Nations conference in September. A similar cross-border group is also taking shape in South America, where Brasscom (Brazil’s industry led IT exports promotion group) is spearheading collaborations with internal software and technology associations in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.
“Once the region is properly positioned, the possibilities of attracting FDI to our countries will increase and no matter where FDI projects choose to establish, Central America will become a stronger economic block…”
Skeptics of the regionalization concept argue that at the end of the day countries will still compete aggressive to win business, and be reluctant to share too much about the methods they use to stimulate investment and export activities. However, based on comments from Chamarro, it is evident that a new era may soon be arriving in the region that is influenced by the growing realization that there is strength in numbers – and that from the eyes of many investors, the region is viewed as a whole and only through knowledge building do they understand distinctions between nations.
“Once the region is properly positioned, the possibilities of attracting FDI to our countries will increase and no matter where FDI projects choose to establish, Central America will become a stronger economic block through the creation of regional clusters, productive linkages, spillovers and other FDI benefits, “ says Chamarro. Investment agencies from Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua are participating in the alliance. Notably absent from the group is Panama – which has been seen by some to have reached a saturation point in BPO and call center industries.
During the group’s first meeting, it created the “Managua Declaration” – with the following objectives:
- Creation of a Network of Investment Promotion Agencies of Central America and Panama to foster interaction and facilitate communication channels between the region’s institutions.
- Promote technical cooperation between the agencies to share information, knowledge on best practices and experience in the development of dynamic investment attraction systems and tools, in order to better position the region as an investment destination.
- Foster practical collaboration between the region’s agencies to promote cross-border and regional investment projects, as well as to conduct multinational investment promotion campaigns and initiatives.
- Strengthen the region’s agencies as institutions and their mandate, as well promote their recognition at a local, regional and international level, while facilitating their specialization and ensuring their sustainability in each country.
- Create a regional office to develop and execute a work agenda with the objective of designing strategies and initiatives deemed necessary by the member countries.
- Promote the network’s participation in international associations to allow interaction with agencies from different regions of the world.