With 56 million Latin American and Caribbean households joining the ranks of the middle class in the past 15 years, the United States today underlined that it is benefiting from the economic and political rise of the Western Hemisphere.
In her remarks at Center for Hemispheric Policy’s 7th Annual Latin America Conference in Florida, Assistant Secretary Roberta S. Jacobson for Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs said that the real story of the hemisphere today is a positive one.
“It is a story of broad commitment to economic and social advancement; a story of pragmatic leaders who are building deeper democracies and a new middle class; and a story of a once troubled region that has seen its largest nations emerge as respected players on the global stage.” -Ms. Jacobson
US partnership with the Americas matters a great deal to the United States, she added.
She notes that Secretary Clinton has described how harnessing the “power of proximity” between the United States and Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada is among the most strategically significant tasks facing US foreign policy in the years ahead.
She stresses that the same is true for US neighbors, because the power of proximity runs in both directions.
Working together with its partners in the region, the US can begin to transform the Americas into a shared platform for global success.
She reports that millions of households have joined the ranks of the middle class, which now stands at more than 275 million people which is almost half the region’s population and growing.
Grouped together, the hemisphere’s market of nearly a billion people has made it an energetic hub of trade and investment, Ms. Jacobson highlighted.
Approximately 42 percent of U.S. exports go to this hemisphere, more than any other region across the globe, she noted.
During the past three years, US exports of goods to the Americas have increased by over $200 billion to nearly $650 billion, she cited.
According to Ms. Jacobson, the trade supports nearly four million U.S. jobs.
With the addition of Colombia and Panama last fall, the United States now has trade agreements with twelve countries in the hemisphere that run uninterrupted from the Arctic to Patagonia, she stressed.
“The region’s emergence advances U.S. interests in ways that go beyond the economic dimension, to encompass the political and strategic realms.” -Ms. Jacobson
Recently, Brazil has joined the U.S. to create the Open Government Partnership, a global initiative to improve government transparency and accountability.
She adds that Mexico’s smart diplomacy played a vital role in advancing climate change talks in Cancun, and it will again be on display when world leaders gather there for the G-20 summit to advance the global economic recovery.
In addition, Uruguay is a leading contributor to UN peacekeeping missions, and Colombia is using its tenure on the UN Security Council to assert greater leadership on key international issues.
“The Summit of the Americas that took place in Cartagena last month offered more evidence that the hemisphere is moving in the right direction.” -Ms. Jacobson
Ms. Jacobson notes that as President Obama stated, the challenge for this hemisphere is to make sure that economic growth is sustainable and robust, and giving opportunity to a wider, growing circle of people.
Earlier this year, Ms. Jacobson states that President Obama announced a Broadband Partnership of the Americas to promote universal access to technologies that will improve the region’s competitiveness and foster social inclusion.
In addition, the United States has joined Colombia in launching “Connecting the Americas 2022,” which commits the leaders of the Western Hemisphere to achieve universal access to electricity over the next decade by enhancing electrical interconnection.
She cites that this ambitious effort builds on the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, which President Obama launched at the 2009 Summit, backed by more than $150 million in U.S. government investment to support more than 40 initiatives.
“Our partnerships for the Americas also include a focus on enhancing citizen security.” -Ms. Jacobson
She notes that while much of the region is enjoying greater peace and prosperity, violent crime remains a serious problem throughout Mexico, Central America, and parts of the Caribbean.
In response, the United States has built strong partnerships through the Merida Initiative, Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), and Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) to improve security in each respective region, Ms. Jacobson underlined,
She says the recent history of the Americas has demonstrated how important democracy is to reinforcing economic progress.
Protecting democracy in the hemisphere is the responsibility of governments and citizens alike, she stressed.
In closing, Ms. Jacobson stresses that the countries of the Americas have an exciting future ahead of them, if they choose to seize it.
“Across the hemisphere, our citizens are demanding better jobs, improved social services, accountable and transparent government institutions, responsible economic management, and the freedom to live as they choose.” -Ms. Jacobson
The United States pledges to work with its partners to help the Americas become a platform for shared prosperity and success, Ms. Jacobson emphasized.
On September 2008, the United States and 11 other countries in the Western Hemisphere launched an initiative designed to enhance trade and investment throughout the region.
The new initiative “Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas” is designed to expand the progress already achieved.
Each of the 11 countries either has an existing free-trade agreement with the United States or has one pending before the U.S. Congress.
In the nearly 15 years since NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] entered into force, trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico has increased by a combined total of more than 200 percent.
The initiative has provided a forum where leaders can work to ensure that benefits gained from improved trade are more broadly shared throughout the region.
A fact sheet on free trade agreements states that when Bush took office in 2001 the United States had free-trade agreements with three countries, but today the United States has agreements in force with 14 countries as well as three approved by Congress but not yet in force.
The 11 nations joining the United States in announcing the initiative are Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and Peru.
A communique issued by the group says the Pathways initiative is open to all Western Hemisphere countries, either as partners or as observers “that share our commitment to democracy, open markets and free trade.”