Tatiana Maria: Trade Executive Sees Fast Track as `Number One Issue' in 2000

Article excerpt

The International Trade Association of Northern Virginia (ITANV) is a nonprofit organization that provides practical advice and services for businesses involved in international commerce to its nearly 280 members, which include individuals and corporations. Founded in 1976, the association hosts several forums throughout the year, including an annual flagship event. This year's is titled "Doing Business in the Americas."

Tatiana Maria, ITANV's vice president for public and community relations, recently discussed the association's goals and issues affecting international trade. Ms. Maria is also vice president for Gemmex Intertrade America, Inc. (GIA) an import-export company based in Vienna.

Among the topics discussed was fast track legislation, which allows the administration to negotiate trade accords that Congress can approve or disapprove, but can't amend. Despite repeated requests from President Clinton to Congress to grant him fast track, the last authority expired in 1994. The Latin American market is typically referred to as Mercusor.

Question: Tell us briefly about the association and the type of activities you are involved in right now.

Answer: We are reciprocal members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce since 1998 and we are also partnering with the World Affairs Council in Washington, as well as the U.S.-Bulgaria Trade Council. We have very good relationships with many, many associations in the region and we share events.

We're doing an event on October 27 in the Folger Shakespeare Theatre. It's a networking event where more than one association will bring their materials, and we'll bring our members.

There's another event coming up on October 20. That's our big event, "Doing Business in the Americas." Our keynote speaker will be the vice president of PSINet, Phillipe Kuperman. After that, we're going to have seminars. We're going to have an educational focus for the Americas. We're going to have a discussion on NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement]. Then we're going to have a discussion on the Mercusor, and finally we're going to do success stories. Then we're going to open up the exhibits. They will be open to the public and will run from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. We're going to end the evening with a wonderful reception. We're going to have ambassadors, trade representatives, corporations, guests. It's going to be a big event.

Q: Do you foresee the association's emphasis being on Latin America or do you think in the future you will look to other regions?

A: We're already planning next year. It will probably be Europe that we're going to focus on. Every year, it's going to be a new region. Why did we pick the Americas this year? It's because they are our neighbors. Our biggest trade partners are Canada and Mexico and we have to respect that. So we've decided to do the Americas first. But we go by the statistics of Virginia, as well as who are our major trading partners.

Q: Why is Latin America important to Northern Virginia?

A: Governor Jim Gilmore has led a wonderful campaign to expand business relationships with South American countries, in particular Argentina, Chile and Brazil. He's just returned from a trip of South American countries and he's taken a delegation of [information technology] corporations. Virginia wants to expand business to the Americas.

Q: Is the hope that because Northern Virginia is becoming this big technology capital, it will capitalize on that and be able to establish IT links with South American countries, or is the hope it will move into a much wider trading relationship?

A: The reason also why we focus on the Americas is that in the last couple of years, we have been behind in not having fast track in place. European countries have moved into South America and they've done very, very well. Although we have NAFTA - the NAFTA agreement is doing very well for us - but Mercusor is really taking us out of the league. …