Obama Administration Helping Small Businesses--In Latin America

By Penny Starr | December 6, 2012 | 6:01 PM EST

Ines Bustillo, director of the Washington, D.C. office of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), spoke at an event on Dec. 6, 2012 on Capitol Hill. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – At an event on Capitol Hill to discuss how the U.S. State Department is helping small businesses in Latin America, the Washington director of a U.N. economic commission on Latin America said average annual growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in that region in 2011 was 4.3 percent -- almost double the average annual growth rate of the U.S.

Ines Bustillo, the Washington director for the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), revealed the U.N.’s GDP figures during a discussion Thursday on the U.S. State Department’s Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas.

She describes Pathways as a program that “links Western Hemisphere countries committed to democracy and open markets in an initiative to promote inclusive growth, prosperity, and social justice.”

“GDP growth in Latin America last year was 4.3 percent,” Bustillo said, referring to the latest numbers available in the report done by ECLAC on the region’s economy and economic growth.

That number is almost double the average annual growth rate of the U.S. GDP, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s Aug. 22 report on the budget and economic outlook for fiscal years 2012 to 2022.

“CBO expects the economic recovery to continue at a modest pace for the remainder of calendar year 2012, with real (inflation-adjusted) GDP growing at an annual rate of about 2¼ percent in the second half of the year, compared with a rate of about 1¾ percent in the first half,” the CBO report stated.

Countries currently taking part in the Pathways program are Belize, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, and the United States. Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago have observer status, according to the State Department.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Organization of American States (OAS), and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) are “strategic Pathways partners,” according to the State Department.

“Pathways countries recognize that the gains from trade and economic growth have not always been equitably shared and that the promise of economic and social opportunity remains elusive for too many people in this hemisphere,” the State Department website stated.

“Pathways seeks to close this gap by encouraging public policies and public-private partnerships to empower small farmers, small businesses, women, indigenous communities, Afro-descendants, youth, and vulnerable groups to participate effectively in the global economy,” it added.

On Wednesday, the State Department announced $1.5 million in grants through the Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas (WEAmericas) initiative.

“Twenty-six grants will go to 16 Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as two multi-regional projects, and will support women’s entrepreneurship by developing and linking existing resources, programs, and infrastructure to create a stronger entrepreneurial environment for women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses,” the announcement states.

The grants are funded by the International Fund for Women and Girls and the Walmart Foundation, according to the State Department.