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The objective: transform Mesoamerica into a more integrated, competitive, and prosperous region
PANAMA CITY —The president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli inaugurated the first Mesoamerican Business Forum before more than 250 business leaders and government officials in the Panamanian capital to discuss the role of the private sector in the region’s trade integration.
Forum participants discussed the challenges and investment opportunities in transportation, logistics, and energy projects that will deepen trade relations within Mesoamerica and with other regions of the world, particularly those that will take the greatest advantage of the expansion of the Panama Canal, whose completion is expected in 2015.
Moreno said the canal’s expansion to accommodate much larger ships will mark the beginning of a new era in the history of trade and globalization, and therefore presents a unique opportunity for the region. "Inspired by the example of Panama and the canal expansion, let’s work together with urgency and commitment to transform Mesoamerica into an integrated region and the preferred destination for industry, innovation, and trade,” he said.
Jorge L. Quijano, administrator of the Panama Canal Authority, gave an update on the canal expansion project and the trade integration opportunities it presents for Mesoamerica.
Panelists at the forum included Stanley Motta, chairman of Copa Holdings; Leong Peng Kiong, CEO of Crimson Logic; Zeng Xingliang, vice president of Sinohydro Corporation; Francisco Leopoldo De Rosenzweig, Mexico’s undersecretary for foreign trade; Antoni Rossich, director general of FC Barcelona; and Rolando González-Bunster, CEO of InterEnergy Partners Ltd. The forum was being held on the eve of the 54th Annual Meeting of the Boards of Governors of the IDB and the Inter-American Investment Corporation.
To meet the challenges Mesoamerica faces in modernizing trade infrastructure and logistics, the IDB and the Mesoamerican governments are working on a series of projects that include widening and paving 2,200 km of the 3,200 km that make up the Mesoamerican Integration Corridor―known as the Pacific Corridor―which is the shortest route between the Mexican city of Puebla and Panama. This route carries 95 percent of the region’s land freight. The IDB and the governments also are carrying out programs to streamline customs procedures at border crossings.
Another determining factor for the region’s competitiveness is energy integration. Over the coming years it is estimated that the Central American countries will see an increase in electricity demand of up to 5 percent annually. The region will need about 10,000 MW of new capacity by 2027, which will require nearly doubling the current installed capacity.
Forum participants also spoke of the historic moment for Central America in energy integration with the start of operations of Central American Electrical Interconnection System (SIEPAC) and the implementation of the Regional Electricity Market in April, in addition to connections with Mexico and Colombia. Speakers highlighted investment opportunities for the private sector in more efficient and modern power generation projects in the areas of regional projects, renewable energy, and alternative fuels.
The IDB supports the regional integration platform known as the Mesoamerican Integration and Development Project, which aims to promote the physical and commercial integration of the Mesoamerican countries to advance the social development of the region’s people. These countries are Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and the Dominican Republic.