So what do the pocket-protector gang's assessments mean for your business? "I'd say the outlook is pretty optimistic," Hufbauer says. "I think this year may offer good opportunities for smaller [U.S.] companies to find established partners in the region and get ready to move forward when the time comes."
That time could be as early as later this year and throughout 2000--after the fall elections in a number of Latin American countries.
According to Hufbauer, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela are countries to avoid in the next few years, while Argentina and Chile are among the good bets for the near future. Still, analysts say Mexico will remain the best place for U.S. entrepreneurs. John D. Negroponte, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, points to two hot areas in particular: manufacturing (particularly automotive) and services (especially in the financial and tourism fields). "The growth potential in the services area is enormous," says Negroponte, currently executive vice president for global markets of the McGraw-Hill Companies. "We've barely scratched the surface."
If the experts' assessments of Latin America as a whole prove to be accurate, there should be a whole lot of scratchin' going on by early next year.
For more information, visit:
- Southern Center for International Studies at http://www.southerncenter.org
- Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System at http://www.bog.frb.fed.us
- Institute for International Economics at http://www.iie.com