Mar del Plata, Argentina -- The Fourth Summit
of the Americas provided the leaders of the Western Hemisphere
an important opportunity for dialogue, and it reached a
successful conclusion, according to Assistant Secretary
of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon.
President Tabare Vazquez, top left, and
U.S. President George W. Bush shown in
a Summit of the Americas group photo.
Leaders from the 34 democratic nations
of the Western Hemisphere convened at
the summit November 4-5 in Mar del Plata
to address the region's political, economic
and social challenges. During the summit,
United States and Uruguay strengthened
their trade and investment ties by signing
a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). Presidents
Vazquez and Bush met privately following
the summit's First Plenary Session in
preparation for the signing of the BIT
by Assistant Secretary of State for Western
Hemisphere Affairs Thomas A. Shannon and
Uruguayan Foreign Minister Reinaldo Gargano.
article). Also pictured above, are
the president of Bolivia Eduardo Rodriguez,
bottom left, and Vice President Alberto
Diaz Lobo of Honduras, top right. (White
House photo by Paul Morse)
The summit -- which took place November
4-5 in Mar del Plata, Argentina -- brought together leaders
of the 34 democratic nations of the hemisphere for discussions
on common political, economic and social problems facing
President Bush joined other leaders at the
summit, but because he is visiting Brazil November 5-6 at
the invitation of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da
Silva, the U.S. president left Argentina for Brazil, as
scheduled, at approximately 3:30 p.m. on November 5. (See
"From our point of view, it was a very,
very interesting summit, with a very fruitful and fluid
dialogue," Shannon told reporters at a November 5 briefing.
"The leaders came here with the idea to advance a common
agenda in terms of democracy and economic development, and
I believe they achieved important advances in these two
The State Department official indicated
that the declaration that emerged from the summit was a
"good" one. He also said that communiqués
released regarding Haiti, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador and
the current round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations
were "very important." Shannon explained that
the communiqués highlighted hemispheric leaders'
support for countries undergoing democratic transitions
while also sending a strong message prior to the upcoming
WTO meetings about the importance of concluding the current
round of talks. (See USA
and the WTO.)
In addition, Shannon said, the summit was
particularly important because the debate between the leaders
"was very, very useful to identify points of consensus
and areas where there is not yet consensus."
Among the areas where consensus does not
yet exist is the pace of efforts to create a proposed Free
Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). (See Free
Trade Area of the Americas.)
"We all left with the idea that there
is a common goal, and a bit of disagreement as to the pace
to advance toward this goal, particularly with respect to
free trade," Shannon said.
He noted that while 29 of the 34 regional
democracies are prepared to move forward immediately toward
the creation of an FTAA, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay
and Venezuela are not.
Shannon pointed out that Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez was the only leader to oppose the free-trade
accord on ideological grounds, while the other opposing
nations -- which comprise the Mercosur trading bloc -- suggested
that the right conditions do not yet exist to move forward
with the FTAA.
However, Shannon emphasized that the Mercosur
nations remain open to participating in FTAA talks in the
Shannon said that progress in the upcoming
WTO talks, particularly in the area of agricultural subsidies,
could present an opportunity for further progress on the
FTAA. In the meantime, the State Department official said,
the Western Hemisphere emerged from the summit a "winner."
"We had a debate that was necessary
to have," he added.
During the summit, the United States and
Uruguay strengthened their trade and investment ties by
signing a Bilateral Investment Treaty on November 4, 2005.
(See related article)
For more information, see Summit
of the Americas.
Washington File Staff Writer