Nicaraguan Know How: Learning to Move On
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Of all the data points that were released this May by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regarding 2011 trade data, the data point that stood out to many was the fact that Nicaragua became the Latin American country with the highest ratio of foreign direct investment as a percent of gross domestic product.
Why is this so impressive?
Less than a quarter of a century ago Nicaragua was a country torn in half, not only due to the jungle that splits the countries Atlantic and Pacific coasts, but because of a civil war that cost the country years of development and thousands of lives. Though fortunately this war ended with a move towards democracy and the nation’s first free and fair election in 1990, a clear political divide still exists that has hampered the country’s ability to grow. While we may not be able to fully bridge this divide, the U.S. Chamber is fully committed to the U.S.–Nicaragua relationship and we continue to support efforts to increase trade, foreign investment, growth, and development.
Yesterday the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA) and the American-Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce, hosted an event in Washington D.C. focused on the number of opportunities for growth for the Nicaraguan economy and to find ways in which we can work together to increase U.S. investment in Nicaragua and thus create jobs both here in the U.S. and abroad.
Bringing together business leaders, academia, the Nicaraguan Presidential Delegate for Investment, and Nicaraguan Congressional leaders from the opposition; this forum (as covered here, here, and here), for perhaps the first time, allowed for an open and honest dialogue regarding the opportunities and challenges that U.S. companies face when operating in Nicaragua.
During the forum the Nicaraguan Presidential Delegate for Investment, General Alvaro Baltodano, noted that President Ortega’s goal is “to transform the model of development, based on aid and cooperation, so that the investments have a more forceful role.” Given that Nicaragua is projected to have the highest growth rate in Central America over the coming years—nearly half of which is based on U.S.-Nicaraguan bilateral trade and investment—and as The Economist noted earlier this year, Nicaragua is “A Surprising Safe Haven” relative to the region, this goal of increased development through continued and enhanced foreign direct investment is possible.
We at the U.S. Chamber look forward to continuing to work with the Nicaraguan government and business community towards that end.