BY JOACHIM BAMRUD
On April 1, Peter Hakim enters a new chapter in his life. After serving as president of the Inter-American Dialogue since 1993 he will forego the administrative duties and concentrate on writing about Latin America. ”I will continue to write and hope to have time to do more writing and better writing,” he says of his plans.
Hakim will be succeeded by Michael Shifter, who has served as vice president for policy the past five years.
”Peter Hakim has built the Inter-American Dialogue into the premier center for quality policy analysis of issues involving the Hemisphere's prosperity, stability and security,” says Carla Hills, the CEO of Hills & Company and a former US Trade Representative who serves as co-chair of the Dialogue. “Thanks to Peter's efforts the Dialogue is a high level, genuinely non-partisan, inter-American group.”
REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS
Case in point: Hills served as the USTR in the Bush 1 Administration, while one of The Dialogue’s two Vice-Chairs is Thomas F. McLarty III, who served as Latin America advisor and chief of staff for President Bill Clinton.
Half of its 100 members are from Latin America and the Caribbean and the other half are from the United States, Hills points out. “These qualities enable it to bring together those who are in a position to help solve problems,” Hills says.
The Dialogue’s board of directors includes an impressive group in both the private and public sectors. It includes former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Ricardo Lagos of Chile. Other board members include Enrique Garcia, the president of the Andean Development Corporation (CAF) and Enrique Iglesias (who headed up the Inter-American Development Bank from 1988 to 2005). It also includes Elena Viyella de Paliza, President of Inter-Quimica in the Dominican Republic and one of Latin America’s Top 25 Businesswomen, according to Latin Business Chronicle.
Hakim also receives praise from Latin America. “What impresses me, as well as most of the people that have collaborated with him, certainly is his working capacity, the passion that he dealt with his responsibilities at The Dialogue and his incredible disposition to be where necessary to talk about US and Latin American relations,” says Roberto Teixeira da Costa, a former president of the Brazilian securities commission and a board member of SulAmérica and the advisory boards of Bunge and Cia. Brasileira de Distribuição (Pão de Açucar).”He built a deep respect for The Dialogue in the region, became well known in different business circles and [among] government and his opinion has always been respected in the U.S. and abroad.”
Susan Kaufman Purcell, director of the University of Miami’s Center for Hemispheric Policy, says Hakim’s biggest impact has been the decision to publish the daily Latin America Advisor. “The Latin America Advisor has a big impact in addressing businesspeople,” she says. “He expanded the circle.”
However, she does not agree that The Dialogue became non-partisan. “The Dialogue ..is considered more Democrat than Republican and often seen as an organization whose gravity is more in tune with Democrats,” Purcell says. But she acknowledges that the group has been critical of the Obama Administration’s trade policy. “They have been critical of the lack of progress,” Purcell says.
US-BRAZIL AND TRADE
Teixeira da Costa sees Hakim playing a positive role in strengthening U.S.-Brazil relations. “The most outstanding contribution that Peter Hakim has given to our relationship, is that he never gave up in pointing out the critical points looking from a Washington perspective,” he says. “This is to say, he was able to look with firm convictions to the points in the agenda of both countries that should be addressed in order to improve business and trade between the two countries.”
And the former USTR says that Hakim has been a major contributor in boosting focus on trade. “Peter has been a force is focusing attention on issues involving trade and economic reform so essential to economic growth,” Hills says.
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