“Convergence is the way to strengthen the economic relevance of preferential trade agreements in our region,” said Antoni Estevadeordal, Director of The IDB`s Trade and Integration Sector. “Together, they could help improve the region`s competitiveness abroad, especially in this increasingly challenging trade environment. Alone and without critical mass, these agreements face insignificance, even slow death, in the face of agreements already in force in Europe, Asia and North America. Latin America and the Caribbean could add an additional US$11 billion in annual trade flows by bringing together 33 separate agreements into a single regional free trade bloc, according to a study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). About 35 free trade agreements — one-tenth in total — have been signed by Latin American and Caribbean countries. Proponents of free trade argue that by removing both tariff and non-tariff barriers, the agreements allow countries to export more of the goods and services they produce most efficiently and to import those for which other countries have a comparative advantage and therefore benefit from competitive prices. The end result is, at least in theory, a win-win situation with more efficiency and mutual benefit all around.. . . .