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Summit of the Americas Concludes in Argentina

Important advances made on democracy, development, assistant secretary says

Posted: November 6, 2005 Related item: White House Lauds Summit of the Americas Accomplishments  

Uruguayan 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. Also pictured 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)

Uruguayan 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. (See related 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)

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.

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 the region.

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 related article)

"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 areas."

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 future.

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.

Scott Miller
Washington File Staff Writer

 

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