BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA — Founded just more than three years ago, Aliplast, the Latin American plastics industry group, faces a major challenge: how to become truly essential to each one of its 12 member countries, considering their diversity in terms of size, priorities, interests and business cultures. The destiny of Aliplast is under the command of Sergio Sosa Bravo of Mexico, who became president last December upon being elected head of Anipac, the Mexican plastics industry association. Sosa inherited both positions from his Mexican predecessor, Juan Manuel Alvarez Icaza.
Aliplast includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
In a general meeting during Argenplas 2000, held April 3-8 in Buenos Aires, Sosa proposed that Aliplast build a strategic plan that includes contributions from all of its members, so that the organization can outline a path for the future.
"My goal is that the group can reach a consensus on general strategic guidelines before September, when Aliplast will hold new elections in a meeting that will take place at the same time as Plastimagen 2000," Sosa said. Plastimagen is the Mexican plastics industry trade fair.
During the Buenos Aires meeting, Aliplast also decided to change its bylaws, allowing presidents to run for re-election.
"As of now, whenever a president relinquishes the job position at his or her original association, this individual's continuity at the head of Aliplast will be subject to ratification. In the event the president's continuity is not ratified, the vice president shall take over on an interim basis," Sosa said.
The first two presidents of the organization, which does not possess a fixed head office, were Hector Mendez (1996-97) and Merheg Cachum (1998-99), leaders of the plastics industry associations in Argentina (CAIP) and Brazil (Abiplast), respectively. Both individuals worked on gathering and compiling general data on the Latin American plastics sector and promoting international congresses, among other activities.
"Founding Aliplast was a major endeavor, and keeping it up and running is no less difficult," Cachum said in an interview at Argenplas. "We must define a minimum agenda of actions and really count on contributions from every member, so that the organization can function."
Cachum is disappointed with the limited participation on the part of a few countries in the group's activities. "During my term, I was not able to conclude a basic databank on the Latin American plastics industry, because several members didn't send in their country data," he said.
Another representative was upset because Mexico promoted a change in the presidency of Aliplast without communicating the plan to other members. Some of the associates only became aware during Argenplas that Alvarez, the former Anipac president who was elected Aliplast president in mid-1999, left the position in December.
Sosa explained that, for reasons unknown even to him, Anipac personnel only informed him in March that he was Aliplast's president. "When I knew it, I came to the conclusion that the best solution for this Argenplas meeting would be to introduce myself and propose establishing a strategic plan as a group," Sosa said.
This is not the first time that plastics leaders in Latin America have tried to create a general association. A similar attempt in the 1980s did not succeed.
"If an association in a single nation takes awhile to mature, you can imagine what happens when the association relates to several countries," Sosa added.
Sosa is a respected businessman in Mexico's plastics industry and the son of a pioneer in the sector. With an educational background in plastics from Germany and Mexico, Sosa is a partner in two companies that make technical parts for electronic products and supply them to the maquiladora industry. One of them, Sosa Molding Plastics SA de CV, located near the Texas border in Chihuahua, is the only Mexican plastics firm among a total of 80 in the region. It exports 100 percent of its product to the United States.
"I think that Aliplast needs to focus more on globalization, as we have done in Mexico," Sosa said. "Globalization is like a weapon — it can be good or evil, depending on the way you use it. And it is the only tool available to us at present. We should make the best possible use of it."