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THE NEXT LOS ANGELES / TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION : How can we take advantage of the mosaic of entrepreneurship that makes business life so vital in Southern California? : SOLUTIONS : Putting NAFTA to Work

July 17, 1994

FROM: David Hayes-Bautista, UCLA professor and head of the Latino Futures Research Group.

Hayes-Bautista contends that California is failing to exploit opportunities created by the North American Free Trade Agreement, which began to take effect in January.

Los Angeles has a healthy inner-city population, unlike many other U.S. cities, he says. "Every week Gov. Ann Richards of Texas is down in Monterrey, Mexico City, Guadalajara or Puebla. But our governor spends his time bashing immigrants, creating an image of some monstrous, blood-sucking leech."

We need to take advantage of Southern California's large Latino work force to push the export business with Mexico, Hayes-Bautista argues. Companies must work harder to market their products south of the border. And state and local governments need to develop a concrete strategy to attract capital from Mexico and to encourage even more trans-border commerce. Then officials must put the strategy into action and make sure it is sustained.

"Why is production of commercial entertainment in Spanish located in Miami?" Hayes-Bautista asks. "We have six times the Latino population of Miami. We have more artists, more filmmakers and writers. We should be working like crazy to sell to all of Latin America."

REALITY CHECK:

Anything that helps Southern California business take advantage of emerging opportunities in Mexico is to be encouraged. NAFTA offers potentially huge payoffs in new markets and job opportunities. But if Los Angeles fails to move strongly, it will lose out not only to other states but to countries like those in Asia that are aggressively pursuing opportunities with Latin America.

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