Visa International said Wednesday that it will urge its Latin American board not to bar member banks from issuing American Express cards.

The board is to vote today in Washington on a bylaw that would prohibit such issuance, said James F. Partridge, Visa's president for the region.

Analysis of "competitive issues and developments in the region" convinced Visa that the prohibition was "unnecessary," Mr. Partridge said.

But American Express Co. spokeswoman Elisabeth Coleman said Wednesday that Visa's decision "is a response to the legal initiation we took in Latin America."

Visa has been under fire for trying to export a bylaw it has had in the United States that would prevent members from issuing competitors' cards to other regions.

Mr. Partridge's statement followed word Tuesday from American Express that the Federal Competition Commission of Mexico had issued a preliminary injunction to prevent Visa International from adopting such a bylaw in Mexico. The injunction also forbids Visa to restrict member banks there from issuing the cards of Visa competitors, American Express said.

In recent weeks, American Express has filed complaints in Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Chile, and Puerto Rico.

According to American Express, the National Commission for the Defense of Competition in Argentina has opened an investigation of American Express' claim that Visa was engaging in anticompetitive practices there.

Also, American Express said, a Brazilian regulatory agency is beginning proceedings against Visa.

"It looks like Visa is beating a hasty retreat," Ms. Coleman said.

Despite Visa's decision, she said, American Express plans to press ahead with its legal initiatives. "We need to get absolute clarity that establishes beyond a doubt - banks are free to do business with us or anyone else without fear of reprisal from Visa."

Mr. Partridge pointed to Visa's 52% market share in Latin America and the Caribbean, with member banks reporting annual growth rates nearing 40% during the last five years. Meanwhile, he said, American Express' market share has consistently dropped.

"Visa members in Latin America already own the strongest card payment brand in the world - the Visa brand," he said. "So they certainly don't need to rent one from American Express."

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