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Building Trade Capacity and Promoting Economic Development in the CAFTA Region through Legal Reform

With funding provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development (“USAID”) and working in partnership with USAID and the international management consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton, the National Law Center for Inter-American Free Trade (“NLCIFT”) – a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational institution affiliated with the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona – has undertaken a legal and institutional reform project which will build trade capacity and promote economic development in the Central American Free Trade Area (CAFTA) region.

Initially, the project will entail the development of a multi-country “Trade and Commercial Environment Assessment” for the CAFTA region – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The multi-country assessment provides three primary benefits. First, it offers comprehensive, integrated insight into the existing laws, institutions and social dynamics underpinning the trade and economic systems and the capacity of each country and the region to rapidly and securely move goods, services, people and money across their borders. Second, it serves as a highly useful tool to help target assistance to countries of the region to maximize the economic and social benefits that increased bilateral and regional cooperation under CAFTA promise. Third, it offers a basis for sustained dialogue among numerous local and international stakeholder communities about the social and economic choices and implications of greater regional economic integration, globalization, and newly emerging competitive realities in the post-9/11 era.

The key subject areas of the assessment are as follows: bankruptcy; business associations; competition; contracts; courts and judicial and extra-judicial procedures; cross-border financial flows and migration; customs administration and flow of goods and services; foreign direct investment; intellectual property; international trade; real property; sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade; and underlying trade infrastructure.

Following the initial assessment phase, the project will move into the implementation phase which will focus on actual legal and institutional reforms to be undertaken with the support and participation of the governments, private sector representatives, and the international and regional donor communities.

This project presents an outstanding and unique opportunity for students and faculty at the James E. Rogers College of Law to participate in an important legal reform initiative that is likely to extend throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The NLCIFT encourages and welcomes the participation of the James E. Rogers College of Law community (faculty and students in both the J.D. and LL.M programs), including those interested in the following: the specific subject matter areas which are the focus of the assessment and subsequent reform activity; international and comparative law, particularly as they relate to economic development; and applied legal research in the Inter-American context.

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