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.
John Maisto (file photo)
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
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
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
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
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
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:
"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
So the United States judges Mar del Plata
to be a success. Here's why:
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.
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
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,
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
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.