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Recent Summit of the Americas a Success, Maisto Says

Region reaffirmed commitment to democracy, sound economic policies

Posted: November 17, 2005 Related item: Summit of the Americas concludes in Argentina  

Ambassador John Maisto. (U.S. Embassy photo by Vince Alongi)
John Maisto (file photo)
The fourth Summit of the Americas was a success because the democratic leaders of the Western Hemisphere reaffirmed the importance of strong democratic institutions and sound macro-economic policies, says John Maisto, U.S. national coordinator for the Summit of the Americas.

The summit was held November 4-5 in Mar del Plata, Argentina. In November 16 remarks at George Washington University in Washington, Maisto outlined the results of that summit as well as the challenges ahead in the Western Hemisphere.

He said that going into the summit, the United States wanted to reaffirm the importance of strong democratic institutions, to emphasize the important connection between sound economic policies, growth, job creation and poverty reduction, and to build on the accomplishments of past summits.

Reviewing the results of the summit, Maisto pointed out that all but one country reaffirmed that representative democracy is indispensable for peace, development and stability in the region. He added that the region's leaders are committed to more than democratic elections and will work to ensure that leaders govern democratically.

"The hemisphere's leaders committed explicitly to the full and effective application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter," Maisto said. The Inter-American Democratic Charter, adopted in 2001, states that "the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it."

Hemispheric leaders, Maisto said, also issued communiqués to address threats to democracy and security in Nicaragua, Bolivia, Haiti and Colombia, and he indicated that the United States looks forward to working with the Organization of American States (OAS) to strengthen democratic governance in the region.

As to the United States' second priority at the summit, Maisto said that the region's leaders "left no questions about the important relationship between sound macro-economic policies, growth, job creation and poverty reduction."

He observed that the declaration issued at the conclusion of the summit outlines the importance of the business community in creating jobs while also emphasizing the role of micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses.

Maisto said that the hemisphere's leaders also clearly came out in favor of trade liberalization and sent a strong message on the importance of reducing agriculture subsidies during the next round of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in December in Hong Kong. As for the creation of a proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), he indicated that 29 nations, representing 90 percent of the region's gross domestic product, reaffirmed their commitment to a prompt conclusion of the FTAA talks. The four countries of the South American Common Market (MERCOSUR) that currently believe the conditions are not right for the FTAA, he said, agreed to re-examine their stance following the December WTO talks.

Maisto said that the United States will continue to stress the importance of the FTAA, and he concluded that the fourth Summit of the Americas "was a successful contribution to the summit process."

As hemispheric leaders work to implement the summit's Plan of Action, Maisto said many U.S. proposals were incorporated into the plan, including the creation of an Infrastructure Facility of the Americas, the creation of five Opportunity Zones to encourage new businesses and the effective implementation of the Declaration of Florida, which enhances the ability of the OAS to address threats to democracy in the region.

Moving forward from Mar del Plata, Maisto said that hemispheric leaders must exercise the leadership and political will to make difficult choices and implement needed reforms. He added that the help of the region's private sector and civil society will continue to be invaluable in this process.

For more information, see Summit of the Americas.

Following is a transcript of Maisto's remarks:

(begin transcript)

"Mar del Plata: Moving Beyond the Headlines"

Remarks by Ambassador John F. Maisto,
U.S. Permanent Representative to the OAS
and U.S. National Coordinator for the Summit of the Americas,
at The George Washington University panel:
"The Mar del Plata Summit: Results and Challenges Ahead"

If you believe that summits are events where, periodically, the hemisphere's democratic leaders meet to discuss and yes, debate, issues of importance to their people, Mar del Plata was a timely and much-needed summit.

This summit was lively, and it was controversial, as reported in the media, and as those of us who were there can attest. President Lagos said it the best: "Fue un debate como pocas veces se ha visto."

But at the end of the day, the leaders issued a 76-paragraph declaration which showed unity and consensus on a wide range of issues, including a reaffirmation of representative democracy, the need for sound economic policies, the need to deal with poverty and how; eradicating the worst forms of child labor; and fighting terrorism and narcotics. And it issued an action plan, and five declarations about specific issues.

So the United States judges Mar del Plata to be a success. Here's why:

Our Objectives

Going into the summit, the United States had three primary objectives:

First, we wanted to reaffirm the importance of strong democratic institutions, which deliver opportunities, both social and economic, for people to improve their lives. That covers the gamut of poverty and job creation. The Summits of the Americas is a gathering of leaders who are committed to the full and effective exercise of representative democracy, as expressed in the OAS Charter and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and was reaffirmed. Representative democracy is the one indispensable requirement for countries' participation in the summit process. However, several countries which did join us at the Summit are currently experiencing challenges to their fragile democratic institutions. The assembled leaders sought to call attention to how the international community, and especially the OAS -- by means of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and under our new Secretary General, who is here today, could support those democracies.

Second, we wanted to emphasize the important connection between sound economic policies, growth, job creation, and poverty reduction. This is what we have heard today by all of our other presenters. This involves a vibrant private sector, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as the motor of job creation. We sought to reaffirm our commitment to the Monterrey Consensus, which states that developing countries have primary responsibility for their own development, and the international community will support those countries that have sound policies, good governance, and the rule of law. And finally, we view trade liberalization, bilaterally, regionally, and globally, as one of the best ways to attract investment, create opportunities, and lift millions out of poverty.

Third, the United States wanted to contribute to a successful summit process, building on the accomplishments at the 2001 Quebec summit and last year's Special Summit in Nuevo Leon (2004). These past summits made significant contributions to our hemispheric dialogue. In Quebec, the heads of state asked foreign ministers to draft the Inter-American Democratic Charter. In Nuevo Leon, leaders agreed to concentrate on measurable, time-bound initiatives to promote sound economic policies that have a direct impact on people's lives, such as halving the cost of sending remittances by 2008, or tripling IDB lending to SMEs by 2007. At Mar del Plata, we hoped to build upon these efforts of past summits, by having our democratic leaders commit to initiatives that create jobs, foster upward mobility, and strengthen democratic governance.

The Results

So what were the results of Mar del Plata? If you look only at the headlines, you might think the summit ended in complete disarray, without agreement on a mutually beneficial hemispheric agenda. However, if you read a little more -- or the Argentine press on Sunday, November 6, the day after the summit, and I commend the Argentine press for their work -- you will discover there was a lot more to this summit.

First, all but one country reaffirmed that representative democracy, as enshrined in the OAS Charter, is an indispensable condition for the peace, development, and stability of the region. As the first line of the Declaration of Mar del Plata demonstrates, we are committed to more than just democratic elections in this hemisphere. Democratically elected leaders must also govern democratically, according to the principles of the OAS Charter and the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The hemisphere's leaders committed explicitly to the full and effective application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which states that "the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it." To address special areas of concern in our hemisphere, the leaders issued communiqués to deal with threats to democracy and security in Haiti, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Colombia. We all look forward to working with the Secretary General to continue and build upon the good work that the OAS is doing to strengthen democratic governance in our hemisphere.

To keep our societies free and create an environment where all our citizens can prosper, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment, strongly, against corruption, terrorism, and narco-trafficking. To focus on the poorest and most vulnerable of our citizens, the leaders also stressed the importance of fighting discrimination, providing better opportunities for women and vulnerable groups, and promoting social inclusion.

Our second priority at this summit was also accomplished: we left no questions about the important relationship between sound macro-economic policies, growth, job creation, and poverty reduction. It is all up there at the front of the Declaration. The leaders stress the important role of the business sector as the engine for job creation, and devote an entire chapter of the Declaration to the role of micro, small and medium-size enterprises. The Monterrey Consensus is reaffirmed as the fundamental basis for our partnership for development.

This hemisphere also clearly came out in favor of trade liberalization as a path to prosperity. The leaders discussed an ambitious agenda for the Doha Round in the political Declaration, including the issue of special and differential treatment related to small economies. We agree with the hemisphere that the agricultural negotiations will unlock the full potential of the Doha Round. That is why the hemisphere's leaders sent a strong, direct, focused message to the Doha round in Hong Kong to substantially reduce agricultural tariffs and trade-distorting subsidies. This is a message President Bush highlighted at the U.N. High Level Event on September 14, emphasized again with President Lula just after the Summit, and that he reiterated just this week on his route to Asia to attend the APEC summit.

Furthermore, 33 countries reaffirmed the importance of moving forward with trade liberalization in this Hemisphere. Twenty-nine countries, which represent over 90 percent of the GDP of this hemisphere, reaffirmed their commitment to a prompt conclusion to the FTAA negotiations. The four Mercosur countries believed that the conditions are not ripe right now for the FTAA, but agreed to re-examine the situation after the Hong Kong trade meetings. There was debate and no consensus about the next steps forward -- but 33 countries firmly supported trade liberalization as a path to better lives for our citizens. We will continue to emphasize the importance of the FTAA. However, if you look beyond the headlines, the FTAA was only one paragraph of 76 in the Declaration. Our leaders were not at the Summit of the Americas to negotiate trade.

For all these reasons, we do view Mar del Plata as a successful contribution to the summit process. There was a healthy debate among our leaders about the theme of this summit, "Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance." This theme of employment is of utmost importance, confirmed in poll after poll, to all of our hemisphere's citizens.

The Plan of Action did not have quite as many concrete time-bound initiatives as we would have liked. However, the hemisphere welcomed many of our concrete proposals, including:

1) An Infrastructure Facility of the Americas, a new institution to assess the feasibility of infrastructure project proposals from private and public sponsors.

2) The creation of five Opportunity Zones, which will encourage new business opportunities, particularly for disadvantaged citizens.

3) A $16 million contribution to continue and expand our fight against the worst forms of child labor.

4) The development of more efficient energy sources and cleaner technologies.

5) Strengthening the Global Fund to expand our fight against HIV/AIDS in the hemisphere, and to keep ahead of the curve.

6) Effective implementation of the Declaration of Florida on "Delivering the Benefits of Democracy" which enhances the ability of Secretary General Insulza to address threats to democracy in the region, specifically strengthening the application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

The Journey Forward

So how do we move forward after Mar del Plata? We don't need to invent anything new or magical in the summit process. There are no panaceas or huge new pots of money. If we want to create jobs, the elements are all there. The hemisphere's presidents and prime ministers must exercise the leadership and the political will needed to make the hard choices and the necessary structural adjustments and institutional reforms. We need good economic and labor policies, and clear, transparent, rules of the game to attract investment. (And in that the aspect, I'd like to point out that the U.S. and Uruguay signed a bilateral investment treaty at the summit.)

The private sector served notice in their pre-Mar del Plata meeting of how it is anxious to play its role in job creation. In the coming years, we will need to continue to engage with our hemispheric partners to reinforce the elements necessary for creating jobs, fighting poverty, and bolstering democratic governance.

We will need to continue to follow up on previous summit mandates from Nuevo Leon and Quebec, as well as the initiatives from the Mar del Plata summit. We welcome the work of the OAS Summits Secretariat, and especially their recent reports on commitments made at previous summits. The help of civil society and the private sector in monitoring implementation of summit mandates has been and will continue to be invaluable over the next few years, to hold our leaders accountable to their words.

And we look forward to the long journey from Mar del Plata to Trinidad and Tobago or Colombia, where the fifth Summit of the Americas will be held.

Over the next years, the Summit of the Americas process will probably receive very few headlines. But our elected governments, working with civil society and the private sector, will continue to toil daily to deliver the lesser-known benefits of the Mar del Plata summit to all our hemisphere's citizens.

Now, just how the Mar del Plata summit will be judged is yet to be determined. But what the elected governments do to carry out their commitments, and their challenge, beyond the headlines, will continue to be -- as it has been since summits began -- as expressed in what our friends from Nike sum up so well: JUST DO IT.

(end transcript)

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