by Ken Rankin

Washington - Coinciding with massive anti-globalization protests again the World Bank and "corporate capitalism" in the streets of Washington, leaders of the accounting profession from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico met with Commerce Secretary Donald Evans and signed a new international agreement to encourage cross-border practice by North American accountants.

Under the new Professional Mutual Recognition Agreement (PMRA), accountants licensed in Mexico will be allowed to practice in the U.S. and Canada - and vice versa - without requiring them to take the complete entry-level professional exam.

These streamlined cross-border licensing rules were "drafted in the spirit of the North American Free Trade Agreement," and they recognize "the substantial equivalency of Canadian Chartered Accountants (CA), Mexican Contador Publicos Certificados (CPC), and U.S. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs)," officials at the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy said.

"Should they desire to practice in either of the other two countries, rather than taking the complete professional entry-level examination, they would be required to successfully complete an examination testing taxation and law differences between their country and the other," NASBA explained.

The Capitol Hill signing ceremony for the new pact represents only the first step toward implementing the agreement throughout North America. Before the streamlined licensing accord can take effect, it first must be ratified by the NAFTA Free Trade Commission.

Next, the agreement must be adopted by state accountancy boards throughout the United States.

While the streamlined practice requirements will apply to accountants in all three countries, since the U.S. and Canada are already operating under a two-party PMRA, the biggest effect of the new agreement will involve expanded cross-border licensing with Mexico.

Texas State Board of Accountancy executive director William Treacy predicted that his state will see a sharp increase in the number of Mexican accountants.

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