State Outlines Progress Under Pathways Initiative to Spread Benefits of Trade Liberalization
The Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas initiative, which is regarded as an effort to maintain support for open markets and trade liberalization in the Western Hemisphere by recognizing that the benefits of those policies need to be more broadly shared by workers, farmers and consumers, is seeing progress, the State Department announced Oct. 3. Participating countries include Belize, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and the United States, and Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago have observer status. The sixth Pathways ministerial meeting was held Oct. 2 in Panama, though State did not mention any specific outcomes from that gathering.
A department fact sheet states that cooperation under the Pathways initiative focuses on facilitating trade by improving regulations and infrastructure, providing access to financial and technical support mechanisms for small and medium-sized enterprises, supporting worker rights and fair labor standards and emphasizing the importance of a viable workforce through education, training and entrepreneurship, and improving environmental practices and protections.
To influence progress toward these goals, the U.S. and others are providing technical assistance through various regional projects, which have included the following.
- Pathways countries worked with the Department of Commerce and U.S. Customs and Border Protection through the Central American Border Management Reform Project to modernize their customs procedures and interagency border management by leveraging public-private partnerships to facilitate increased trade. Commerce and CBP hosted in-country workshops and led site visits to U.S. ports with Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador during the initial phase of the project and is continuing a second phase with the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Peru and Uruguay.
- WEConnect International provided training to women-owned businesses in Peru and Mexico with support from Pathways. To facilitate the global linkages necessary for entering the export market, the roundtable event in Mexico brought together 45 buyers and 146 sellers and resulted in $6.5 million in deals closed.
- The Small Business Development Center model expanded to Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama and trained over 320 future counselors and directors.
- The Pathways to Cleaner Production in the Americas Initiative is a network of non-governmental organizations, academia and the private sector that is training the next generation of cleaner production professionals while helping SMEs to green their production practices. In 2013, students and companies in El Salvador and the Dominican Republic participated in pilot courses that strengthened their technical capacity to promote adoption of cleaner production practices.
- The USAID Development Credit Authority initiated three SME credit guarantees in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Mexico in 2013 that will allow banks and non-banking financial institutions to extend up to $100 million in additional credit to SMEs at longer terms and lower collateral requirements.