Media Center



September 30, 1999 - Washington, DC

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all this morning to the Hall of the Americas, to participate in this important event. The Organization of American States is proud to be a part of this conference examining the legal obstacles to electronic commerce in Latin America. We are pleased to be working with the co-organizers of this event, the National Law Center for Inter-American Free Trade, and Business Software Alliance.

This conference has very ambitious goals. Your task over the next few days will be first to identify obstacles to the development and practice of electronic commerce in Latin America, and secondly, to find common ground and to propose a set of principles in order to guide future efforts on this issue in the Western Hemisphere.

The significance of the quest for these answers has drawn broad representation here today from government, legal and business sectors. And it is fitting that we should be here today in the Hall of the Americas to welcome participants from throughout our Hemisphere, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela and the United States. We also welcome many guests and participants from countries outside of the Americas, who are here to share their experiences with us.

During these discussions, international organizations and Latin American countries will familiarize us with their approach to a variety of legal issues that relate to the conduct of electronic commerce. These issues are many, and include the formation and validity of contracts, the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, certification of electronic documents and signatures, formalities, jurisdiction, banking practices, tariffs, customs and a host of other regulatory matters. International and country legal experts will describe their efforts to deal with existing or future regulations that currently govern commercial transactions, and how they apply to electronic commerce.

Electronic commerce is a vibrant and growing sector in Latin America, and its continued growth promises to fuel the demand even further for innovative technologies, business practices and services. This conference constitutes an unprecedented opportunity for legal and business actors within the region to ensure that the electronic commerce market can continue to grow, and that any new regulations will enhance rather than hinder the benefits of this market. It also provides us with the opportunity to consider other important issues, such as the development of a framework which is technology-neutral, and one whose benefits can accrue to all sectors of society.

The discussions over the next two days will provide an ideal context for us to find the path to the future. Government, legal and business representatives must work together in the determination of the principles that will prepare the way for the development of electronic commerce. It is imperative that we continue to facilitate the dissemination of best practices to be followed in the Inter-American context. Strong and active private sector-government teamwork can play a vital role in this regard.

Privatization, and economic and legal reforms in many Latin American countries are creating new opportunities and even more market openings are expected. Economic actors engaged in electronic commerce in the Americas are especially well-placed to take advantage of these market openings, as lower costs allow them to compete efficiently in formerly restricted markets. However, electronic commerce is especially sensitive to government policies regarding market access, intellectual property protection, privacy protection, security of data, and delivery of telecommunications services, as well as anticompetitive business practices. Needless to say, existing legal obstacles must be remedied, and judicial system participants must be trained and provided with the means to deal with the new technologies and mechanisms of doing business.

This conference has attracted a tremendous response and an enviable level of representation. You will hear over the course of the next few days from such esteemed persons as the Honorable Henry Rivera, Senator Max Baucus, and Congressman Jim Kolbe. This is truly a unique and timely opportunity to establish the basis for a future framework -- one that will aim at eliminating regulatory, legal, financial, and technical barriers to electronic commerce where they may already exist, and will ensure that new ones are not created to take their place.

I congratulate you on undertaking this challenge, and I wish you all a very fruitful conference. At this time, I am pleased to welcome the First Panel to start this morning’s discussion.

Thank you.