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As is customary, Montecarlo marks the kickoff of the year-end reinsurance renewal season negotiations. The picture is less than clear, with fewer natural catastrophes than in 2000, but with tougher conditions having taken shape for several types of coverage, plus more mergers and acquisitions between top reinsurers and substantial changes in the capital markets. What does all of this mean for Latin American markets and their relations with the rest of the world?
In 2000, the Latin American insurance market wrote premiums for US$ 36.7 billion, equivalent to 3% of all premiums worldwide and a little better than 10% of US premiums for the same year. The greatest portion of this volume was produced in just 5 countries. The strong development of life, pensions and annuity markets following Social Security and Health system reforms has made a major contribution to the rise in premium levels in a number of countries in the region -Argentina among them- but in both those markets and the non-life segment, there is still much to be done and a lot of room for growth. If we compare this scenario with the rise in premiums posted in the United States (1.9% in 2000 and 1.8% in 1999) it is easy to see why insurers and other investors alike continue to seek a piece of the action in the rapid development of Latin American markets -and especially in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico- despite the economic woes facing the first two.
Banking's influence on insurance also has played a part in insurance market growth in Latin America, since newly formed conglomerates between the two industries provide sound opportunities for cross marketing, while offering customers in both segments the chance to cover their needs through one-stop shopping. To quote from one of the studies included in this edition: "...Latin America will remain a market for tomorrow with resources and demographic potential for significant growth..." And if business people and politicians alike make the proper effort, this will not be one-shot growth, but a basis for sustainable development.
In terms of reinsurance, Brazil remains, without a doubt, the biggest question mark, if not the only one. That country appears to remain undecided as to when it will open up its market. Since Brazil is the largest market in Latin America and, like others in this part of the world, is virtually free of natural catastrophes, what happens there will surely influence the policies of major international groups with regard to their plans of action in the region as a whole.
Finally, we turn to Mercoseguros, the common market created by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay in 1991, and that today also includes Bolivia and Chile, as non-member affiliates. Here we can no longer speak of "growing pains", bearing in mind that a decade has passed since the signing of the Asunción Treaty, and it is clear that the domestic troubles in the midst of which the main signatories find themselves also tend to create hurdles in the way of the inter-regional development of the insurance industry. This is true, to a large extent, because the asymmetries that separate Brazil from the rest of the members of this common market have still not been resolved, although this is but one of the factors involved.
For many of the insurers and reinsurers taking part in the Montecarlo Rendezvous over the course of better than two decades, the event provides a good chance to renew contacts and friendships.
Although technology has substantially reduced difficulties in establishing swift and timely communications, the Rendezvous continues to have the same attraction as always for those who participate in it, providing a propitious setting in which to start to analyze projections for the coming year. Mercado Asegurador , which has been present in Montecarlo for the last 24 years, wishes everyone a pleasant stay and the very best in business.

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