A Bridge to Latin America

How the Interamerican Development Bank is helping U.S. companies grow

The Inter-American Development Bank launches “BID for the Americas,” a program aimed at facilitating business opportunities between the U.S. and Latin America. Providing information on contracts, trade, investment, and financing, the initiative seeks to bridge information gaps and promote collaboration, with a focus on fostering partnerships for infrastructure projects and private ventures in the region.

By Doreen Hemlock

Looking to boost business with Latin America and the Caribbean? There’s a new program out with information on potential contracts, trade, investment, and financing: BID for the Americas.

The powerhouse Inter-American Development Bank, known in Spanish as BID and in English as IDB, launched the program and its online tools to help companies gain easier access to opportunities, including bids for bank-funded contracts for roads, bridges, and other major projects in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).

“We want private companies to use the IDB as a bridge to business with Latin America,” says Fabrizio Opertti, who manages trade and integration at the bank. “We believe there are asymmetries of information, where the information doesn’t always flow in the clearest way, so we want to work on that to get more competition from U.S. companies.” U.S. firms currently win some 60 percent of IDB contracts they bid on, but they typically bid on contracts only up to $1 million, partly because they’d been unsure how to find local partners for larger bids, says Opertti. So the program includes ways to reach potential partners overseas.

A major source of development funds for its 26 borrowing nations, the IDB has been lending or mobilizing more than $12 billion annually in funding for projects in the LAC region in recent years. It raises the money mainly through its 22 “non-borrowing” member nations (i.e. donors) in Europe, Asia, and North America. The new program focuses on opportunities for companies in these countries, starting with the U.S.

For firms in South Florida, which counts the LAC region as its top trade partner, the opportunities abound. BID for the Americas and its online tools even single out U.S. programs that incentivize trade with countries in the LAC region, such as the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) that allows for duty-free exchange on most goods.

The new IDB program doesn’t focus only on bids for public infrastructure projects, such as airports or highways. It also offers funding for private ventures through its IDB Invest unit. Last year, IDB Invest announced $49 million in direct financing for the Miami-based Cisneros Group to develop its sustainable resort project in the Dominican Republic. That cash complemented $85.6 million more from other banks and financial institutions for its Tropicalia-Four Seasons venture. “We believe this sustainable mixed-use resort … could [serve] as a model for responsible tourism development in the Caribbean and beyond,” says IDB Invest CEO James Scriven.

To boost awareness about the program, IDB officials recently visited Miami on the first stop of a U.S. roadshow. Joining Opertti was the new IDB president Ilan Goldfajn, who took the helm in December 2022. Born in Israel and raised in Brazil, Goldfajn holds a doctorate from MIT and formerly served as governor of Brazil’s central bank and in top positions with private banks and the International Monetary Fund. Together with Opertti, he met with key business players in South Florida to foster collaboration, including the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, the Latin Chamber of Commerce, Select Florida, port leaders, and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, among others.

Officials at the presentation noted that the program also offers information about trade shows and regional business events, and about the IDB Lab, which aims to help tech startups and entrepreneurs. For more on new program, see “BID for the Americas” at iadb.org.

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