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Posted September 9, 2003
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U.S. Department of State - U.S. official outlines White House vision for the Americas

Noriega says U.S. will promote sound policies in the region President Bush believes that no region is more important to the future of the United States than the Americas, and his administration will continue to work with hemispheric partners to nurture democracy and promote prosperity in the region, says Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega.

In September 8 remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Noriega outlined the Bush administration's record in the Americas and shared its vision for the future.

Noriega cited the U.S. conclusion of a free-trade agreement with Chile, current trade negotiations with Central American nations, U.S. support for an International Monetary Fund package for Brazil, and engagement in efforts to resolve crises in Venezuela and Haiti as examples of the Bush administration's "impressive record of achievement" in the hemisphere.

The State Department official noted that the administration's goal for the region is to "help our friends and neighbors consolidate the historic political and economic progress they have made and, together, build a community of democracies committed to freedom and opportunity for all the people of the Americas."

Noriega warned that despite the great strides that the region has made in recent years, persistent political, economic and social problems endure. He identified the root cause of most of these problems as political and institutional in nature, rather than economic.

"Over the last two decades the people of the Americas have made enormous progress, but these achievements have not erased the legacy of decades of poverty, corruption, and selfish or wrongheaded political leaders," Noriega explained. He said that U.S. leadership will be crucial in helping regional leaders overcome these obstacles to growth and in helping make democracy serve every citizen well. "We must continue to nurture democracy and build republican institutions of government in the hemisphere," Noriega said.

"We must adhere to rational economic policies and encourage our neighbors as they make the difficult transitions that are necessary to compete in the global economy and reach their true potential."

In pursuit of these goals, Noriega said, the United States will continue to advocate policies that have a proven record of success -- such as free-market reform, respect for the rule of law, the right to property, and sound macroeconomic principles.

He indicated that the United States will also encourage countries to invest in their people so that they have the necessary education and health care to prosper.

Noriega said that trade represents the best opportunity for the countries of the hemisphere to attract the capital they need to create jobs and sustain economic growth. That growth, he pointed out, will support public investments in education and infrastructure. He said the United States remains committed to the creation of a comprehensive Free Trade Area of the Americas by the target date of January 1, 2005.

In his remarks, the assistant secretary addressed the individual political or economic landscape of several countries, as well as U.S. policy toward many of the nations in the hemisphere.

Following is the text of Noriega's remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Speech by Ambassador Roger Noriega U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Center for Strategic and International Studies Washington, D.C.

September 8, 2003 I thank Dr. John Hamre for inviting me to be with you this morning. It is a pleasure and an honor to address this audience, and I thank each of you for deciding to start your week with me.

I thank Dr. Sidney Weintraub for his kind introduction. Like most of you, I hang on every word of his, but I admit that I was listening extra carefully this morning.

CSIS plays an important role in this town as source and sounding board for innovative and creative ideas, and I welcome the opportunity share some of my thoughts with you.

As you know, I have just begun my service as Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs. As I do, I feel fortunate to be part of an Administration that understands and values our relationships with the Americas.

The Bush Administration's Western Hemisphere Policy: A Vision and A Substantial Record

President Bush believes that the Americas are critically important to our security and our well-being as a nation. He has demonstrated his commitment to the region from his first days in office, and he has articulated a clear vision for us to pursue. He has made great strides toward his goal of building a Hemisphere "trading in freedom," in every sense of that expression.

Our goal is to build an inter-American community, bound together by common values of freedom fortified by the rule of law and strong democratic institutions, and fueled by free trade and investment.

Exceeding everyone's expectations but his own, the President campaigned successfully for Trade Promotion Authority at a time when we dealing with the fallout of the September 11 attacks and a full legislative agenda. A Chile free-trade agreement that had been shelved for a decade was signed and sealed.

Rather than rest on those successes, the president has seized the opportunities for other bilateral deals -- negotiating an FTA with Central America, and laying the groundwork for similar talks with the Dominican Republic, Panama, and several Andean nations. In the meantime, the United States has kept up momentum in the FTAA process and is exerting tremendous leadership within the Doha Round of the WTO talks.

When Uruguay faced the prospect of financial crisis through no fault of its own, President Bush promptly provided a crucial and necessary billion-dollar bridge loan. The U.S. also lent vital support to an IMF package for Brazil. And no one knows better than Argentina's leaders the support we have given as they get their house in order.

Governments that have recognized that imposing the rule of law and fighting corruption are cornerstones of sustained development know that they have no better ally than the United States.

Not only have we strengthened our economic ties to the region, we have bound ourselves together in the defense of shared political values. On September 11, 2001, the member states of the OAS signed the Inter-American Democratic Charter, a historic step that uniquely defines this region by its commitment to democratic principles. The Democratic Charter opens with a profound pledge -- which we made to our people and to one another: "The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy, and the governments have an obligation to promote and defend it."

That essential commitment to democracy and human dignity and our determination to work together as a community, multilaterally, to defend those values draws us together, minimizes our differences, and moves us to act in concert.

For these reasons -- plus President Bush's own orientation as a "compassionate conservative" -- our relations with governments across the political spectrum have seldom been stronger.

For example, President Bush has begun a productive relationship with Brazil's President Lula, holding a "joint cabinet meeting" to institutionalize our cooperation across the board. Through a healthy OAS and Summit process, we set shared priorities and help one another meet them. And we are working with our neighbors to help the people of Haiti, Venezuela, and Cuba claim and exercise fully their political liberties. Our shared values advance our nation's essential security interests -- which became particularly acute after the 9/11 attacks. Cooperation on border security and law enforcement with Mexico and Canada has never been more comprehensive or successful.

A new Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism was negotiated and signed by OAS member states in the wake of 9/11, and it has entered into force recently. OAS units to fight drugs and terrorism and an OAS conference on hemisphere security help fortify the Americas against old and emerging threats. We stand shoulder to shoulder with President Uribe, supporting Colombia's democratic government against the combined forces of terrorist thugs and cocaine barons.

In my view, this already is an impressive record of achievement, and what we have accomplished sets this region apart from the rest of the world.

The Path to Progress

But our work has just begun. Our goal is to help our friends and neighbors consolidate the historic political and economic progress they have made and, together, build a community of democracies committed to freedom and opportunity for all of our people.

This is not a rhetorical flourish. It is a practical strategy for broad-based, sustained growth that could produce a century of stability and prosperity for 800 million people and generations to come.

Any successful strategy to achieve that goal must recognize that today, the hemisphere is troubled. Many of the region's elected leaders are grappling with persistent political, economic, and social problems. Millions of our neighbors -- too many of them children -- lack shelter and their daily bread. Economies in the region are not growing fast enough to generate sufficient jobs for growing populations, let alone to address chronic poverty.

Corruption and inefficiency has stunted development and spawned popular discontent. Several countries are confronting serious national security threats from terrorists and other criminal gangs. In some countries, these factors have combined to produce violent outbursts, which new and relatively weak institutions of democratic government are hard-pressed to control.

Over the last two decades the people of the Americas have made enormous progress, but these achievements have not erased the legacy of decades of poverty, corruption, and selfish or wrongheaded political leaders. The levers for removing these remaining obstacles to growth are in our neighbors' hands. However, there is no doubt that U.S. leadership will be crucial to helping our friends in the region overcome these challenges.

Working with Our Friends

We can do this by working with our partners in the region to help make democratic government serve every citizen better. We must continue to advocate policies that have a proven record of success -- such as free-market reform, respect for the rule of law, the right to property, and sound macroeconomic principles.

We also will encourage countries to invest in their people, so that people from all walks of life have the tools -- such as education and adequate healthcare -- to claim their fair share of economic opportunity, improve their own quality of life, and contribute to the greater good.

President Bush's "Millennium Challenge Account" will be a powerful support and incentive to fight corruption, to extend opportunity to all their people, and to govern effectively. In the meantime, I have initiated a comprehensive review of how we can best use available resources to help some of our closest friends in the region.

Beginning with Nicaragua, Peru and Bolivia, countries in which friendly, democratically elected leaders are coming to grips with persistent and deeply rooted problems while batting down emerging ones, we will look urgently for creative ways to complement their efforts to ride out an economic trough and lay the groundwork for renewed and steady growth.

In Colombia, we have a good example of how the United States can provide effective support to a democracy in even the most difficult predicament. Steadily, we are working together to turn the tide. Coca production is down, and the terrorists are finding their safe havens are not all that safe.

The united will of the Colombian people and the leadership of President Uribe have made all the difference. It has enabled us to play much more effective supporting role, and it is an example to everyone what people and leaders who demand their right to order and freedom from terror can do. I don't expect all the threats to democracy in Colombia will disappear in the near future, but our friends in Colombia may rest assured that President Bush is committed to their cause.

Democracy also is threatened in Haiti and tested in Venezuela. But that is the result of the failure of political leaders to use their power responsibly to bring their people together for the common good.

With regard to Haiti, we have worked with our partners in the OAS to create a means by which confidence can be restored in the political process. OAS Resolution 822 is the result that effort, and the United States encourages all sides in Haiti to follow the road-map it has outlined. President Aristide, as the leader of his country, has a unique responsibility to provide the secure environment necessary for free and fair elections, to uphold the law and maintain public safety. Violence has no place in settling political disputes in a democracy.

We also continue to work with our neighbors to help Venezuelans find a constitutional, democratic, peaceful, and electoral solution to their crisis. The referendum is a very important tool, and Venezuelans have the task of making it work.

The United States refuses to meddle in Venezuela's internal affairs, but we are not disinterested spectators. Any actions that undermine democratic order or that threaten the security and well being of the region are of legitimate concern to all of Venezuela's neighbors.

In Cuba, Castro's latest crackdown has served to remind people and leaders all over the world that his regime is nothing more than a thuggish dictatorship. After a 40-year nightmare, the Cuban people are beginning to stir.

Two things terrify dictator. The first is when brave individuals -- through simple, conscientious, hopeful acts -- begin to claim their fundamental freedoms think about a better future for themselves and their children. The second is when the rest of the world cares enough to help those people.

President Bush is committed, firmly and fully, to helping the Cuban people. He has made the commitment, and he expects us to follow through.

We will redouble our efforts to implement initiatives to achieve that goal -- with the emphasis on constructive, proactive, positive measures to help people on the island. Visits for humanitarian, religious, or educational purposes might do more good than harm.

But sun-bathers are not going to liberate Cuba. Nor is upgrading the brunch at their isolated tourist enclave. In short, rather than making unilateral concessions that might buy Castro one more terrible day in power, we will focus our efforts to help the Cuban people and to deny him the hard currency to support his police state.

Partners in the Hemisphere

I recently visited our friends in Buenos Aires. I had productive discussions with the Argentines about how we can work together to support democracy in the region and around the world. My essential message was that we value the fact that Argentina has been a good friend to the United States, and, frankly, we need her leadership and engagement.

As for its financial crisis, the challenge is for Argentina is to summon the necessary political will to enact the reforms that will enable that economy to stabilize and recover. I reiterated our interest in a program of specific economic and fiscal measures aimed at restoring predictability and confidence in Argentina.

It is important to remember the complexity of the challenge. President Kirchner is trying to deal with a crisis that is, at its roots, political. He also is confronted by the need for long-term structural reforms, in addition to redressing the fallout of the recent financial crisis.

A long-term agreement with the IMF will infuse some predictability into the equation, so that the Argentine economy can attract the capital it needs to fuel a more sustainable recovery. We believe that the conditions for reaching such agreement are favorable. And we support the process. But it is for Argentina's political leaders to make the tough decisions.

Mexico also is confronting the necessity of further reforms. President Fox recently gave an address to the Mexican nation in which he outlined a broad and ambitious agenda. It is in our interest to see the country that President Bush has described as our most important partner continue to grow and expand the economic opportunities available to its people. That is the basis of our relationship, and our relationship is stronger than ever. We continue to work closely with Mexico on the whole range of issues from trade to security to economic development.

Likewise, our relationship with Canada is broad and mutually advantageous. As you all know, Canada is our most important trading partner. But our relationship goes far beyond trade. We appreciate Canada's aid in the War on Terror. Presently, Canada has more than 2,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan. They have pledged $350 million Canadian dollars to the reconstruction of Iraq, focusing their efforts there on building democratic institutions and promoting human rights. We have agreed to work together on a missile defense system that will protect Canadians and Americans alike.

I will be traveling to Ottawa next week, and I look forward to discussions with my counterparts there.

Our relationship with Brazil continues to grow and deepen. As I mentioned before, Presidents Bush and Lula had very productive meeting in June. President Lula noted that it was more than a meeting of presidents, it was a meeting of governments. Seventeen cabinet ministers from both countries participated in the summit.

We are following up on their agenda. The U.S. Treasury recently hosted their Brazilian counterparts to discuss strategies for raising both our countries long-term economic growth rates. We will work together to fight AIDS in Lusophone Africa. At WTO, Brazil and the U.S. cooperated with other countries to fashion a policy that will allow poor countries to obtain life saving medicines. Together, we are co-chairing the final round of FTAA negotiations.

Trade represents the best opportunity for the countries in this hemisphere to attract the capital that they need to create jobs and sustain a level of economic growth that will support the public investments in education, health, and infrastructure that are essential to the quality of life.

More than half of our neighbors live in poverty -- chronic poverty that has persisted over generations. That cycle of poverty must be broken by generating sustained growth, and the FTAA is the best way to do that.

Combined with and oriented by the rule of law and representative democracy, the FTAA will be more than a mercantile arrangement. It will be a community of nations as prosperous and as just as they can be, "growing together" in every sense of that expression.

We remain committed to a comprehensive FTAA and the ambitious January 1, 2005 deadline. We understand that agriculture is a bone of contention; but, in fact, we have much in common with neighbor's vis- -vis the Europeans on agriculture. And we believe that the recent 'framework' reached by USTR and the EU will provide a way forward.

Regardless, the bottom line is that the desperate need for the benefits that opening and integrating our economies will bring to the people of this hemisphere is undeniable, and we have a moral duty as leaders to deliver on the promise of the Free Trade Area of the Americas.


When I was named to for this post in January, the New York Times ran the story with this headline: "Bush Names Veteran Anti-Communist to Key Latin Post." I was thrilled, but a little puzzled. And I thought to myself that if President Bush had named a pro-communist, that would have been news.

The fact is, our policy toward our neighbors and partners in the region has been guided by the same bipartisan principle -- freedom -- for some time. The great debate between authoritarians, dependency theorists, and unreconstructed Marxists on the one hand and the advocates of democracy and markets on the other, is over. Democracy and markets won, by the way.

There are those who insist on "keeping score" on whether a so-called "left wing" leader is elected in one country, or whether "orthodox" policies are applied in another -- sometimes, both things are true, by the way.

However, I have described a model of broad-based political and economic development to which the vast majority of governments in the Americas remain committed. And the proof of that is the healthy and productive relations that our government enjoys with governments from across the political spectrum.

The relative handful of politicians, movements, political fronts that stand for a radically different model not only are swimming against the tide of history, they are swimming against the current in this hemisphere.

There are those radicals who seek to sow discontent, unrest, and even violence. But we confront them together. And they can only flourish if we fail to deliver on the promise of genuine democracy and economic freedom. There are countries that are relatively wealthy and those that are relatively poor in the Western Hemisphere. Some are led by conservatives, others are not. But we all share a hemisphere and a future. And none of us are willing to fail. The stakes are too high for our people.

I look forward to working with our friends in the Americas to meet the challenges ahead.

Thank you for your time and attention. I will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

Created:08 Sep 2003 Updated: 08 Sep 2003 Page Tools: Print this article E-mail this article

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