-- Rapid economic growth in Latin America has helped some
13 million people in the region escape poverty in 2004 and
2005, says E. Anthony Wayne, the U.S. State Department's
assistant secretary for economic and business affairs.
Speaking December 7 at the Miami Conference
on the Caribbean Basin, Wayne said Latin America hit a 24-year
high in 2004 of 5.6 percent annual growth in its gross domestic
product. Latin America is on track to have higher than average
growth in 2005 of 4 percent, while the forecast for growth
in 2006 is 3.75 percent, Wayne said.
But, on the downside, he added that over
200 million people in Latin America remain mired in poverty.
Wayne called open trade and "investment
regimes" the key to achieving sustained economic growth,
saying the United States’ economic relations with
its partners in Latin America and the Caribbean "have
a sound basis in trade and investment." U.S. trade
with those partners, he said, totaled $427 billion in 2004,
and U.S. investment in that region increased by about $22
billion in 2004, to a total of $325 billion.
The official said the Caribbean Basin is
at a "particularly critical juncture" regarding
trade liberalization, with global negotiations on free trade
likely to reach "key decision points" at a December
13-18 ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization
Hong Kong Ministerial Meeting).
Wayne said a successful meeting of the Doha
round of multilateral trade talks "has the potential
to pull tens of millions of people out of poverty."
A successful Doha round, he continued, "could be the
biggest economic change of our generation, extending the
benefits of free trade to the poorest countries and to the
The Doha round of WTO trade talks, formally
known as the Doha Development Agenda, is aimed at creating
market access opportunities and reform in agriculture and
expanding opportunities for manufactured goods and services.
Wayne said that in addition to its efforts
to conclude a global multilateral trade agreement, the Bush
administration continues to pursue an "active trade
agenda" with regional, subregional, and bilateral free-trade
agreements in the Western Hemisphere.
Regarding the proposed Free Trade Area of
the Americas, Wayne said 29 of the 34 democratic nations
in the hemisphere support moving forward with that trade
pact, even though "some partners have not been ready
to proceed." Meanwhile, he said the United States is
making "significant progress" to conclude subregional
and bilateral free-trade agreements with such countries
as Panama, Colombia and Ecuador. Wayne also hailed the December
7 announcement that the United States and Peru had reached
agreement that day on a free-trade pact.
If the United States can reach free-trade
pacts with its partners in the hemisphere, said Wayne, it
will signal to investors that the countries of the Americas
are committed to global trade and investment rules."
The free-trade pacts, he said, can help "accelerate
diversification of our trading partners' exports, creating
new opportunities and reducing vulnerability stemming from
dependence on a few traditional exports which face increasing
erosion of trade preferences in the global economy."
Wayne cited increased trade between the
United States and Mexico as a "concrete example"
of the benefits of trade liberalization. Trade between the
two countriesmore than tripled from $81 billion in 1993
to $267 billion in 2004, following the 1994 enactment of
the North American Free Trade Agreement among the United
States, Mexico and Canada, he said.
The assistant secretary said debt relief,
which the United States advocates "when appropriate,"
is another tool to help develop the poorest countries in
the Caribbean Basin and elsewhere in the world.
The United States, he said, strongly supports
multilateral debt relief for the world's "heavily indebted
poor countries." Wayne said the Bush administration
hopes for 2006 implementation of a U.S.-backed proposal
by the Group of Eight nations to give $40 billion in debt
forgiveness to 18 of the world's most heavily indebted poor
countries. Latin American beneficiaries of that proposal
would include Bolivia, Guyana, El Salvador and Honduras.
Haiti is another country that could eventually benefit from
the proposal, said Wayne.
Remittances (money transfers) are another
increasingly important source of funds for the Caribbean
Basin's development, Wayne said. In 2004, an estimated $30
billion of the over $40 billion in private remittances sent
to Latin America and the Caribbean countries came from the
United States, Wayne said. He added that the U.S. government
continues to support efforts to reduce remittance transaction
All these initiatives, Wayne indicated,
have helped lower the number of people in the Caribbean
Basin who live in poverty. But more people in Central America
and the Caribbean, he said, must share in the economic growth
of the last several years "if we are to achieve the
enduring prosperity and security" that the citizens
of the region "expect and deserve."
For additional information on U.S. policy,
Washington File Staff Writer