THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
A Second Generation of Reforms for the Next Generation of the Americas Remarks by Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty III Counselor to the President and Special Envoy for the Americas The National Press Club, Washington
Thank you for that warm and welcoming introduction. I am pleased to return to the National Press Club. Es un placer estar con ustedes.
I know that the competition is fierce among policymakers for those coveted National Press Club mugs. But beyond that esteemed recognition, it is a genuine privilege to be with you and your National Press Club Colleagues as you celebrate your 90th anniversary. During your distinguished history, the Club has been a witness to and indeed a participant in many important events. To put things into perspective, ninety years ago Teddy Roosevelt was President. Strom Thurmond, who spoke here last week, was in first grade. Believe it or not, 1908 was the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. And that was also, it sometimes seems, the last time many Americans paid much attention to Latin America and the Caribbean.
I. The Quiet Revolution of the Americas
So I am pleased to come before you today to encourage all of us to take a fresh look at the western hemisphere. This, my friends, is not your father's Latin America.
Thirty years ago half of the region was ruled by authoritarian governments or dictators; today 34 out of 35 countries are democratic. Fifteen years ago Central America was torn apart in civil war and conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union; today Central America is at peace, and the United States exports more to Central America than the former Soviet states combined. Less than ten years ago, Argentina's inflation rate was 5,000 percent. Today it is 0.2 percent, and growth last year was over 7 percent. Brazil's inflation is still 5 percent. But it's 5 percent a year now instead of 5 percent a week. But the story I want to tell today is not the absence of crisis.
Rather, it is a story of real opportunity. We have seen a quiet revolution in the Americas that in many ways is no less dramatic than the fall of the Berlin Wall. Profound change has opened the door to unprecedented growth and democracy, but it is not yet fully guaranteed. As a result, the President and our Administration have seized this moment in time to pursue a vision for a greater Americas based on mutual trust, mutual respect, and mutual reward.
II. The Results of U.S. Engagement
This Administration's our sustained engagement with the Americas has produced meaningful and concrete results. In the first term, the President worked to pass NAFTA, convene the Miami Summit, reverse the Mexican peso crisis, restore democracy to Haiti, and bring peace to Guatemala and to the border between Ecuador and Peru. The Vice President made five trips to the hemisphere, highlighting economic growth and the environment, and the First Lady made four trips, raising the profile of health, poverty, and women's issues in the region.
It is no coincidence that the first two state visits of the second term were for hemispheric leaders -- Prime Minister Chretien of Canada and President Frei of Chile. And with his travel next week to the Summit, the President will have made three trips to seven countries in the region in less than a year. That's an unprecedented level of Presidential engagement. At each stop we made real progress on trade, democratic reforms, drugs, crime, and corruption.
III. A Real Impact on Our Daily Lives
Still, some may ask why Americans and their President should care so deeply about what happens in the Americas. James Reston once wrote that the people of the United States will do anything for Latin America except read about it. But if it is true, as the President has suggested, that the once bright line between domestic and foreign policy is blurring, then there are perhaps no foreign policy issues more compelling and relevant to us than those in Latin America and the Caribbean. Whether it is jobs and the economy, immigration and drugs, or the very air we breathe, these issues hit home and have a real impact on people's lives. They are the issues that Americans discuss as they gather together around the kitchen table.
Let's take the timely subject of gasoline prices. Gas today sells for a dollar per gallon -- adjusting for inflation, that's the cheapest it's been in a generation. But how many of us know that Venezuela is our number one energy supplier, and that three of our top four sources of energy are in the hemisphere? Or jobs. One-fourth of our economy depends on trade, and trade-related jobs pay some 16% more than others. Forty percent of our exports go to this hemisphere. We export more to Chile's 14 million people than we do to India's 940 million. Mexico has now replaced Japan as our #2 market behind Canada. And with half of Latin America's population under 21, the potential for the future literally goes off the charts. What about retirement? Forty-three percent of all Americans now own stock, and 70 percent of the stock market is controlled by employer pensions and mutual funds.. Working families depend on these investments, but these investments depend on financial stability, particularly in our own backyard. Fortunately, Latin American economic and financial policies today are more a model to emulate than a model to avoid. I saw this personally at the recent APEC Summit in Vancouver and at the World Economic Forum in Davos where Asian and other officials actively sought out Latin American leaders for economic advice.
But beyond economic security, Latin America and the Caribbean are also important to U.S. national security.
Our allies in the hemisphere stand by us on the world stage. They provide significant support for efforts in Bosnia, Haiti, and elsewhere, and they are steadfast supporters of non- proliferation, including our efforts to contain Saddam Hussein. Our allies are critical to our efforts to combat the scourge of illegal narcotics. Drug trafficking is clearly a problem of both supply and demand. But we cannot win this fight without the full cooperation of Mexico, Colombia, the Caribbean, and others. We must continue to work together if we hope to prevail against the dark, evil force of drugs. The same is true with environmental stewardship. The Amazon is the world's largest rainforest -- providing a good bit of the oxygen we breathe. Incredibly, Costa Rica contains fully 7% of the world's biodiversity. And we cannot stop the universal threat of global warming without the full cooperation of developed and developing countries alike. Similarly, we simply cannot address the complicated issue of illegal immigration without economic growth and cooperation abroad. Now, I'm no Charles Kuralt, chronicling American opinion, but I
think it is safe to say that national security, jobs, gas prices, drugs, the environment, and immigration are issues that the American people care about -- and care about deeply.
As the President's special envoy for the Americas, I think Americans are beginning to see these links to the hemisphere, and I am pleased that they are showing a growing interest in the region. We clearly share geography and the common values of family and faith. Cultural exchanges are at record levels, and the United States has the fifth largest Hispanic population in the world. And our trade to the hemisphere is growing at twice the rate of any other region of the world.
By the same token, our neighbors to the south are rethinking their view of the United States. Motives are no longer automatically questioned. For the first time, the hemisphere is now ready and willing to enter into a broad partnership with us. The new reality is this: in the wake of the quiet revolution, the people of the Americas have discovered shared values, common interests, and the same hopes for a better life. But now we must solidify our progress by working together, with true purpose and uncommon resolve, to address the issues that make a real difference in people's lives.
IV. The Santiago Summit of the Americas
Four years ago at the first Summit of the Americas in Miami, we affirmed the region's dramatic progress with the so-called first generation of reforms -- free and fair elections, and stable, open economies. And if our agreement to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas by the year 2005 was the centerpiece of Miami, as pundits often claim, then the launch of actual negotiations in Santiago will be the cornerstone of our hemispheric architecture.
But I also believe that the first generation of reforms is not sustainable without a second generation of reforms to deepen democracy. Democracy and market reforms are two sides of the same coin. Both are necessary to continue the region's impressive growth. And together they will ensure that a rising tide lifts all boats.
The leaders of the region are as focused on issues of education, poverty alleviation, financial stability and economic growth as we are domestically. It is truly a common agenda, and it is the agenda we have developed collectively for the Santiago Summit.
In today's global economy, education is the only route to lasting, inclusive growth. But the hemisphere has not always received a passing grade. On average, Latin American children receive only seven years of schooling. Primary schools are grossly underfunded, and some teachers supervise up to 150 students. Experts warn that this grim report card may be the single greatest impediment to full participation in the global economy. And the leaders of the region fully agree.
In Miami we made the commitment to provide every child a basic education by 2010. We ought to honor that commitment, and we will in Santiago, with increased funding for primary schools by governments and from the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank. We will put more teachers in the classroom, improve curricula, link students to the internet, and expand vocational training for lifelong learning.
But in a world where the line between domestic and foreign policy has blurred, a better-educated hemisphere is clearly in our interests as well. Broadbased education improves economic growth, and a strong economy enlarges the middle classes who buy our goods, encourages those tempted by illegal immigration to remain at home, and improves environmental stewardship. It reduces the urge to make money from illegal drugs, and it improves governments? capability to stem the flow of narcotics.
These matters are in the interests of hemispheric leaders to address, and it is in U.S. interests that they do so. And the same is true with rest of the Summit agenda. From the concrete steps toward a multilateral alliance against drugs, to progress on global climate change and clean energy, the Summit will address the issues that matter to our citizens.
The Santiago Summit will call for creation of a judicial studies center to strengthen the rule of law. And it will help establish the office of a Special Rapporteur to advocate for freedom of expression. Since 1988, almost 200 reporters have given their lives in pursuit of a story, undermining the public dialogue on which democracy is built. Democracy cannot deliver without a free press, and we cannot tolerate intimidation of free expression, whether by drug lords, guerrillas, or governments.
The Second Generation of Reforms
During recent trade discussions in Costa Rica, I visited a new state-of-the-art Intel microchip plant outside San Jose. I asked the managers there, hard-nosed business people, why they selected Costa Rica over everywhere else in the world for their $500 million investment. Open markets are important, they said, but the deciding factor was Costa Rica's educated workforce, stable democracy, and respect for the rule of law.
This is exactly the point that our hemispheric neighbors understood when we developed the Summit agenda almost a year ago. Now is the time to pursue a second generation of reforms for the next generation of the Americas.
Launching Trade Negotiations
Next week in Chile we will formally launch comprehensive and meaningful negotiations to establish the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Last month our trade ministers met to plan negotiations, and they made significant progress. We simply cannot underestimate the importance -- or the difficulty -- of achieving consensus on these issues. Now we are negotiating with order and determination over the pace of discussions, but not the overall goal.
Let me be clear: economic integration in the hemisphere will proceed regardless of government action. Our efforts are intended to bring order to this ongoing process. The President is committed to the FTAA, he is committed to these negotiations, he is committed to obtaining fast track negotiating authority, which will help the United States shape the agreement to be consistent with our vital interests and the values our citizens hold dear. As negotiations proceed and the benefits of the FTAA become clear, we are confident that Congress will give the President the tools he needs to finish the job.
V. Democratic Values: From Solitude to Solidarity
As we look ahead to the next century, we must not ignore the new realities that have swept the Americas. We must help shape the character of our hemisphere through sustained engagement.
Our choice is clear. Will our future as neighbors be one of sovereign states, working together as partners on the common concerns of our people? Or will we see mixed progress, less prosperous hemispheric economies--including our own--and a return to suspicion and mistrust? For the first time in memory, the hope in the Americas for democracy, peace, and prosperity is a realistic one. What we do in Santiago and beyond will help determine whether democracy will in fact deliver, and whether it will endure for generations to come.
For much of the last century, democracy was all too rare in the western hemisphere. Citizens and governments who spoke out for democracy could often sympathize with the title of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude." But the new character of the hemisphere is bringing citizens and governments together. With sustained U.S. engagement and a new spirit of partnership, we can create "One Hundred Years of Solidarity" for democratic values. From Cien A'os de Soledad to Cien A'os de Solidaridad, from solitude to solidarity, the twenty-first century can be a century of democracy, open markets, and prosperity. And together we can realize the vision of a truly greater Americas.