U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu is hosting a three-day conference this week aimed at building trade and economic ties with Latin America. The first of what’s planned to be an annual event is aimed at expanding business with Guatemala.
Representatives from Guatemala are touring New Orleans businesses, the port of New Orleans and meeting business leaders. Senator Landrieu explains why that nation is getting so much attention.
“Their economy is one of the strongest in Latin America. Their democracy is more stable, so they are ready. There are other countries that are interesting and potential partners but their governments are just not as strong as necessary.”
Guatemalan Congressman Emmanuel Seidner says there are 100,000 Guatemalans now living in Louisiana. He says efforts are being made to schedule direct flights to his country, expand trade, study how Louisiana handles natural disasters, and boost cultural exchange.
“We would like to have more students from Guatemala coming here, and also doctors of Louisiana who are already visiting Guatemala and we would like to follow up on that. So there is an agenda and we will follow up. This is just the beginning and the first visit.”
The Commerce Department says that in 2010, exports from the port of New Orleans to Guatemala totaled $411 million; imports were $87 million. Landrieu says it’s vital that Louisiana increase business with Latin America, as well as nations to the east and west.
“It would just be really a shame for Louisiana to let our position slide any further. We have lost market share to Miami and to Houston and those days have got to be over.”
Landrieu says future conferences will highlight ties to other Latin American countries with stable governments and strong private sectors.