An economic conference focused on the Americas will unfold at Baylor University next week, with fodder for debate breaking out daily as refugees from Central America continue their march toward the United States, NAFTA faces tweaking and President Donald Trump’s tariffs continue to create controversy.

“It should really make for interesting discussion,” said Stephen Gardner, director of the Mayo McBride Center for International Business at Baylor.

The “Trade Integration In the Americas” conference is scheduled Monday and Tuesday at the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation.

All sessions are free and open to the public, but a dinner Monday and a lunch Tuesday require online registration because of limited seating, according to information provided by Baylor. The event is described as the Texas Conference on International Business and Economics, featuring high-level executives from the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Brazil.

All sessions will be held in room 143 and 144 in the Foster building, except for the lunch and dinner presentations in room 250.

“We are expecting good crowds,” Gardner said. “We have gotten the word around to Baylor students and have tried to schedule events in a manner that allows them to come and leave before their next class. One of the big topics of interest should be the proposed new edition of NAFTA, for which negotiations have been completed on round one. Now it goes into the political sphere here in the United States, and would have to be ratified by Congress.”

The North American Free Trade Agreement, which created trade initiatives between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, became effective in 1993. Trump has made renegotiating NAFTA a priority, saying he believes it has poorly served the interests of the United States the past 25 years.

“Wrapped up in all of this are immigration issues, which certainly have immediate significance,” Gardner said. “In the U.S. we tend to think we’re the only recipient of these immigrants, but they are scattered all over Latin America. Venezuela is falling apart, a basket case. Brazil now has a more populist regime with which President Trump feels more comfortable. Honduras faces many challenges. The question is what can the United States and Latin American do jointly to minimize the damage, to prevent the collapse of these economies? There are many issues besides trade in North America.”

Unfortunately, many observers tend to view Latin America as one homogeneous unit, which flies in the face of reality, Gardner said. He said Jorge Molina, a faculty member at Universidad Panamericana and Tec de Monterrey, will address this misconception during a talk at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The keynote speaker at 7 p.m. Monday will be William S. “Bill” Simon, former president and CEO of Walmart and a member of Baylor’s Board of Regents.

Online free registration is required to attend his presentation.

At Tuesday’s lunch, which also requires free registration, Otaviano Canuto, member of the executive board of directors of the World Bank Group, will discuss economic conditions in several Latin American countries.

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