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Noriega: U.S. policy in the Americas based on four "Strategic Pillars"

Investing in people is a crucial component of President Bush's Millennium Challenge Account (MCA)

Posted: February 17, 2005

The essence of President Bush's policy toward the Americas is that sustainable economic growth and political stability are only possible if governments consciously extend political power and economic opportunity to everyone, especially the very poor, says Roger Noriega, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

To that end, U.S. policy in the region is anchored on four "strategic pillars," Noriega said in February 15 remarks to the European/Latin American/U.S. Forum at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington.

Noriega said those four pillars are strengthening democratic institutions, promoting a prosperous hemisphere, investing in people, and bolstering security.

Regarding the first pillar, Noriega said the Americas continue to be affected by too many political crises that are a direct result of weak institutions that fail to adequately extend political power, ensure accountability and transparency, guarantee basic rights, or resolve disputes.

"Our answer," said Noriega, "is to support ambitious second-generation democratic reform agendas so that our neighbors can build systems capable of preventing and solving their own problems. Fundamentally, this entails working to provide all citizens with a voice in how their lives are governed."

On the subject of the second pillar, promoting a prosperous hemisphere, Noriega said that unless Latin America and the Caribbean are able to make more effective use of the $217 billion in income from U.S. purchases, another $20 billion in annual U.S. investment flows, and some $32 billion in remittances to produce more sustainable, equitable growth, "then no amount of U.S. aid to the region is going to make a substantial difference in reducing poverty and growing economies."

Poverty in the region will disappear, he said, "only when individuals are granted the opportunity to unleash their creative genius and profit from the results of their labor. We are urging our partners, therefore, to remove impediments to business creation, improve access to capital, strengthen property rights, and revise their labor laws."

With regard to investing in people, the third pillar, Noriega said that achieving freedom and opportunity for all requires that countries invest in "education, health care, and other basic social services to empower citizens to claim their fair share of economic opportunity, improve their lives, and build better futures for their children."

Investing in people is a crucial component of President Bush's Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), a new assistance program that "rewards countries making the tough decisions to help themselves," said Noriega.

Bolivia, Honduras, and Nicaragua were among the first 16 countries worldwide to be declared eligible for MCA assistance, said Noriega. He added that Guyana and Paraguay were recently selected as "MCA threshold countries" for fiscal year 2005. Those two countries will receive assistance aimed at helping them achieve full eligibility for the MCA program.

Regarding the fourth pillar, bolstering stability, Noriega said that America's neighbors recognize that "our security and theirs are inseparable and that we all share responsibility to protect ourselves from the illegal traffic of arms, people, and drugs."

This shared responsibility, said Noriega, means working with Mexico and Canada "to strengthen our respective borders." It also means, he said, working with the Caribbean through the Third Border Initiative, and assisting Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in his war against Colombian narco-terrorists.

The Caribbean Third Border Initiative is a targeted package of programs launched in April 2001 that is designed to enhance diplomatic, economic, health, education and law enforcement cooperation and collaboration. It seeks to focus new funding and assistance on those areas where the Bush administration sees the greatest increased need.

Noriega said the fourth pillar also means that countries in the Western Hemisphere are "all working together to thwart organized crime and its trafficking of persons, arms, and illegal drugs. It means cutting the financial lifelines of terrorist organizations. It means dealing with those multinational threats that no country can successfully confront on its own."

A key component of Bush administration policy in the hemisphere is the U.S. commitment to multilateralism "because here in the Americas we believe multilateral organizations can and do deliver concrete results for U.S. interests,” Noriega said. “They are effective because they are made up of governments that share common values and interests: for democracy, freedom, and respect for human dignity."

Following is a transcript of Noriega's remarks:

(begin transcript)

Remarks to the European/Latin American/U.S. Forum

Roger Noriega, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs
Remarks to the Inter-American Development Bank
Washington, D.C.
February 15, 2005

The basis for United States policy in the Western Hemisphere can be summed up in one word: freedom.

In his second inaugural address, President Bush proclaimed, "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world," while noting, "America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way."

In the Western Hemisphere, United States policy is to help countries consolidate and extend the impressive democratic gains of the past two decades. While we have come far, the journey continues. Our collective challenge is to continue building an Inter-American community where all governments are not only democratic, but their people are truly free.

There is great opportunity: U.S. trade with the region is growing faster than with the rest of the world. We see the hemisphere as our natural market, with $14 trillion in GDP and 800 million market-savvy consumers. Indeed, our 1st and 2nd largest trading partners make up NAFTA. We trade more with the CAFTA countries than we do with India and Russia combined; and we trade more with 30 million Canadians in a month than we do with 150 million Russians in a year.

Yet our challenges remain formidable. Many regional economies are just not growing fast enough to generate enough jobs to keep up with population growth, let alone address chronic poverty. Income distribution in the hemisphere continues to be among the most skewed in the world; and competitiveness is lagging behind other developing regions of the world.

Some of our citizens are restless for results, and anti-globalization sentiment and false populism are creating an environment where demagogues can manipulate dissatisfaction to fuel personal political agendas.

It is in this environment that we have fine-tuned our programs and assistance to help countries that are making the difficult decisions to help themselves. We want to help our partners to retool their economies to take advantage of the trade opportunities we are extending and to strengthen their political institutions to encourage responsible policies and effective government.

The essence of President Bush's policy is that sustainable economic growth and political stability are only possible if governments consciously extend political power and economic opportunity to everyone, especially the very poor

To this end, our policy is anchored by four strategic pillars:

Strengthening Democratic Institutions

Simply put, the region continues to be affected by too many political crises that are a direct result of weak institutions that do not adequately extend political power, ensure accountability and transparency, guarantee basic rights, or resolve disputes.

Our answer is to support ambitious second-generation democratic reform agendas so that our neighbors can build systems capable of preventing and solving their own problems. Fundamentally, this entails working to provide all citizens with a voice in how their lives are governed.

In practical terms, it means supporting programs that link citizens to their governments by decentralizing political power, by ensuring greater civic participation and better access to the political process, and by improving transparency, effectiveness, and accountability in government.

Second Pillar: Promoting a Prosperous Hemisphere

Clearly, unless Latin America and the Caribbean are able to make more effective use of the $217 billion in income from U.S. purchases, another $20 billion in annual U.S. investment flows, and some $32 billion in remittances to produce more sustainable, equitable growth, then no amount of U.S. aid to the region is going to make a substantial difference in reducing poverty and growing economies.

Indeed, the key to sustained economic growth is a reform agenda that further opens economies, encourages investment, and expands free trade.

Poverty will disappear only when individuals are granted the opportunity to unleash their creative genius and profit from the results of their labor. We are urging our partners, therefore, to remove impediments to business creation, improve access to capital, strengthen property rights, and revise their labor laws.

In conjunction with this effort, we will continue to pursue an ambitious trade agenda in the next four years to prime the pump of prosperity. We have implemented to great success the Chilean Free Trade Agreement; signed a Central America agreement, which we are working with Congress to ratify soon; and we are in negotiations with Panama and our Andean partners for similar pacts.

We also remain committed to a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, with our Brazilian co-chairs a key player. Indeed, the FTAA could hardly have a more committed or tireless champion than the Bush administration against the forces of economic isolationism, both at home and abroad.

The trade agreements we are signing do much more than simply open markets. As we learned from NAFTA, these agreements encourage political modernization, as well as economic reform. They transform societies by allowing countries to market their comparative advantages and domestic resources and to attract investment from abroad, and they encourage good governance, because few will invest in places where corruption is rampant and the rule of law does not exist. Trade accords also advance sound workers' rights and better environmental standards.

Third Pillar: Investing in People

Achieving freedom and opportunity for all also requires that countries to invest in people education, health care, and other basic social services to empower citizens to claim their fair share of economic opportunity, improve their lives, and build better futures for their children.

This is a crucial component of President Bush's Millennium Challenge Account, his historic new assistance program that rewards countries making the tough decisions to help themselves.

To be eligible for MCA funds amounting to $2.5 billion for fiscal years 2004 and 2005 nations must govern justly, uphold the rule of law, fight corruption, open their markets, remove barriers to entrepreneurship, and invest in their people

Three countries from our own hemisphere were among the first 16 to be declared eligible for MCA assistance: Bolivia, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Two additional countries were recently selected as "MCA threshold countries" for FY05 Guyana and Paraguay. These countries will receive assistance aimed at helping them achieve full eligibility.

By placing a premium on good governance and effective social investment, the MCA approach should help countries attract investment, compete for trade opportunities, and maximize the benefits of economic assistance funds.

Fourth Pillar: Bolstering Security

Our neighbors recognize that our security and theirs are inseparable and that we all share responsibility to protect ourselves from the illegal traffic of arms, people, and drugs.

This shared responsibility means working with Mexico and Canada to strengthen our respective borders; working with the Caribbean through our Third Border Initiative; and assisting President Uribe in his war against Colombian narco-terrorists.

It means all working together to thwart organized crime and its trafficking of persons, arms and illegal drugs. It means cutting the financial lifelines of terrorist organizations. It means dealing with those multinational threats that no country can successfully confront on its own.

A key component of U.S. policy in the hemisphere is our commitment to multilateralism because here in the Americas we believe multilateral organizations can and do deliver concrete results for U.S. interests. They are effective because they are made up of governments that share common values and interests: for democracy, freedom, and respect for human dignity.

In 2005, there are two key multilateral events to which we will devote much time and resources. In June, the United States will host the OAS General Assembly in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the first time in 30 years that we will host the GA.

That gathering will advance our agenda of delivering the benefits of democracy to ordinary citizens by making governments more effective, transparent, and accountable.

In November 2005, Argentina will host the Fourth Summit of the Americas, where the focus will be on creating sustainable jobs through policies that promote more competitive economies, attract investment, and foster private sector-led growth through small and medium-[sized] enterprises in particular.

We will again push for agreement on actions to simplify and expand access to credit, so we can empower individuals and provide them the opportunity to share in the benefits of growth on the basis of their own efforts.

In addition, our agenda for the second term will build on and complement the significant achievements of President Bush's first four years.

For example, the Partnership for Prosperity, a public-private initiative with Mexico, has produced outstanding results in areas ranging from remittances to education. The program is a model that can be replicated elsewhere in the Hemisphere. We use our bilateral ties to promote competitiveness measures within Mexico.

As I noted earlier, U.S. assistance has made a crucial difference in President Uribe's fight against terrorism and narco-trafficking; he is transforming Colombia in dramatic fashion.

His democratic security policy has the guerrillas on the run. In terms of eradication of illicit crops, interdiction, extraditions, and the reduction of violence, our policy is a solid success story. We are committed to sustaining bipartisan support in Congress for our program to help President Uribe win the peace by defeating the narco-terrorists and demobilizing illegal groups.

Our efforts in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador have prevented any major spillover of drug cultivation into these countries and we will work to sustain that.

In Brazil, President Bush's personal engagement with President Lula and then-Secretary Powell's recent visit have yielded the most positive and open relations with Brazil in recent memory. We look forward to building even closer ties for the benefit of both the Brazilian and American peoples.

Now that former President Aristide has departed Haiti, we have an exceptional opportunity to help deliver to the Haitian people the good government they have always deserved, but rarely had. I want to especially highlight the robust regional response to the change in government there as an encouraging example of the region moving quickly and multilaterally to head off a crisis and save lives.

Today, Brazil heads the United Nations mission in Haiti, and six other Western Hemisphere countries have boots on the ground. We are encouraged that the interim government has set an elections timetable and that the UN and OAS are working to make that timetable a reality.

Venezuela, on the other hand, does not present such a promising opportunity. Despite the United States' efforts to establish a normal working relationship with his government, Hugo Chavez continues to define himself in opposition to us.

His efforts to concentrate power at home, his suspect relationship with destabilizing forces in the region, and his plans for arms purchases are causes of major concern to the Bush Administration. We will support democratic elements in Venezuela so that they can continue to maintain the political space to which they are entitled, and we will increase awareness among Venezuela's neighbors of President Chavez's provocative acts.

And in Cuba, the President's message to democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile is clear: "America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country ... When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you." No half-measures, no splitting the difference, no hedging of bets.

All citizens of the Americas should be proud of the great advances of freedom and opportunity in the region; they have come at great sacrifice and cost. Yet, it is the inescapable reality of our times that for countries to be making just steady progress in strengthening democratic institutions and building prosperous economies is simply not enough; they have to be making rapid, broad-based progress or risk being left behind in the global competition for capital and trade.

To their immense credit, most of the leaders of the region recognize their obligations to their peoples and are working hard to fulfill them. And as they do so, they will find in the Bush Administration a creative partner, ready to help them reinforce the forces of freedom and opportunity.

In closing, 2005 and the second Bush term will be a time of hope for the Americas, because of the President's leadership and commitment to the liberation of those on the margins of our societies. Our objectives are the same: a safer, more prosperous neighborhood where dictators, traffickers, and terrorists cannot thrive. We know it is within our reach, as we continue work together in a spirit of mutual respect and partnership.

Thank you very much, and I look forward to answering any questions you may have.

(end transcript)

 

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