Main menu

Remarks by Secretary of State Warren Christopher at the 1996 Washington Conference on the Americas

May 06, 1996

***As Prepared for Delivery***

Thank you. I am very glad to have the chance to meet with you this
morning. I am honored to be back in the distinguished company of the
Council of the Americas founder David Rockefeller, as well as Chairman
John Avery and President Ted Briggs. I especially want to welcome my
NAFTA colleagues Trade Secretary Blanco of Mexico and Trade Minister
Eggleton of Canada.

I also want to take this opportunity to welcome and introduce Acting
Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs Jeffrey Davidow. As our
former Ambassador to Venezuela and a diplomat with wide experience, he
is eminently qualified to help realize the bold vision of economic
growth and integration set out by President Clinton at the Miami Summit
of the Americas.

This Council and its members have played an invaluable role in
supporting the triumph of open markets and democracy in our hemisphere.
Through your commitment to dialogue, you have helped foster a deeper
understanding among leaders throughout the Americas. As a channel
between the U.S. Government and the business community, you have helped
ensure that our policies meet the real needs of our companies and our

Since the day he took office, President Clinton has placed job creation,
open markets and fair trade at the center of our economic strategy. He
fought to ratify NAFTA and to complete the GATT Uruguay Round. He
united the leaders of the Asia-Pacific to forge a strong commitment to
open trade. He and the leaders of the European Union have committed to
build a new Transatlantic Marketplace. At the Miami Summit, he shaped
the consensus to negotiate a Free Trade Area of the Americas that will
encompass a 12 trillion dollar market of 850 million consumers. His aim
is to make this hemisphere an even more dynamic hub of the global
economy, and to open markets, create jobs and lift living standards for
all the citizens of the region.

We remain on track to achieve a Free Trade Area of the Americas by 2005
(FTAA). At trade ministerials in Denver and Cartagena, we laid the
foundations for negotiations. Working groups covering everything from
market access to intellectual property are developing a data base of
trade practices throughout the hemisphere and negotiating strategies for
each of their disciplines. We will consider their recommendations at
the third trade ministerial next year in Brazil, where we will discuss
how to open formal negotiations on an FTAA.

I cannot stress enough the importance of your advice and support through
the Business Forum and other mechanisms. As I told business leaders two
months ago in Sao Paulo, you must be engaged and intensely involved in
developing the FTAA if we are to meet our goals on the road to 2005.

Through the continuing implementation of NAFTA, the United States,
Canada and Mexico are strengthening the basis for regional prosperity
and economic integration. NAFTA is benefitting all the citizens of the
region. U.S. exports to Mexico last year were 11 percent higher than in
any pre-NAFTA year. In the first two months of 1996, they have risen to
record levels.

NAFTA is the most dramatic symbol of the new era of cooperation that the
United States and Mexico have entered. From the beginning, President
Clinton has recognized that the United States has a vital interest in a
stable, prosperous, and democratic Mexico. One year ago, the President
stood with Mexico during its peso crisis because he realized that
immediate action was necessary to secure the financial stability of our
closest Latin neighbor -- and that of emerging markets across our
hemisphere. President Zedillo also acted decisively to pursue an
economic program that has sustained Mexico's commitment to open markets
and helped its economy return to the path of long-term growth.

Our two nations have broadened and deepened our cooperation in many
other critical areas. Later today I will lead the largest ever U.S.
Cabinet delegation to Mexico City for the thirteenth meeting of the
U.S.-Mexico Binational Commission. The Binational Commission is both a
reflection of the growing breadth of our relationship and a mechanism
for helping us to meet shared challenges. Let me briefly highlight some
of our top priorities:

We will bolster efforts to fight drug trafficking and crime. With
General Barry McCaffrey in charge, we are developing a coordinated drug
strategy through our new High Level Contact Group. Mexico's recent
action to make money-laundering a crime will help our joint efforts. We
are also improving our law enforcement cooperation by strengthening
extradition procedures.

In recent days, Mexico has taken the historic step of extraditing three
Mexican nationals to the United States. We hope that this unprecedented
action will help persuade other Latin American countries to overcome
their aversion to extraditing their nationals.

We will also continue to cooperate on the difficult issues surrounding
migration. We will seek to improve the enforcement of U.S. immigration
laws and to crack down on alien smuggling, while protecting the rights
and dignity of all individuals.

This year's Binational Commission will launch an initiative enabling
local officials on both sides of the border to cooperate in protecting
the air and water supplies that their communities share. We have also
expanded the Commission to cover public health issues, and to study new
cooperative energy policies.

Broad as it is, the Binational Commission represents only a portion of
our extraordinary cooperation. As two of the hemisphere's biggest
economies and most influential nations, we can be a strong force for
achieving common goals in the Americas and around the world.

When I met with you one year ago, some observers pointed to Mexico's
financial crisis and the fighting between Peru and Ecuador and
proclaimed the death of the Spirit of Miami. They underestimated the
strength of our hemisphere's new consensus. Working together, the
region's democracies have proved them wrong. Instead of wavering in the
face of Mexico's crisis, Latin American nations reacted by deepening
their own economic reforms. The fighting between Peru and Ecuador was
stopped with the key help of the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and
Chile -- an effort that is also moving the conflict to a lasting

Just two weeks ago in Paraguay, our 34 democracies again demonstrated
their determination to defend the hemisphere's hard-won gains. With the
strong support of the United States, the Organization of American
States, and MERCOSUR, President Wasmosy and the Paraguayan people faced
down a threatened coup by Paraguay's dismissed army commander.

Since we last met, there has also been substantial progress toward
ending Central America's last remaining internal conflict -- Guatemala's
35-year-old civil war. The government of President Alvaro Arzu and
Guatemala's guerrillas have stepped up their peace talks. This morning
in Mexico City, they are expected to sign an accord that sets out
principles under which Guatemala can attain greater economic benefits
and a better standard of living for its citizens. The private sector
has played an important role in this peace process. We look to
businesses to invest in the expanding opportunities that a peaceful and
democratic Guatemala will offer.

During my recent trip to the region, I was struck not just by these
positive trends but by the warmth and broad scope of our relationships.
Less than a decade ago, the nuclear programs of Argentina and Brazil
posed serious proliferation risks. Now those nations are important
global partners against proliferation. As Foreign Minister Lampreia of
Brazil told me during the signing of nuclear and space cooperation
agreements, issues that were once on the negative side of the agenda are
now on the positive side.

One of the most moving moments on my trip came in Buenos Aires, when I
reviewed a contingent of Argentine troops bound for peacekeeping duties
in the former Yugoslavia. Argentina has now become the leading South
American contributor to international peacekeeping as its armed forces
have adjusted to civilian authority. Across the hemisphere, we are
working with a new generation of elected leaders who are not only
dynamic, outward-looking and of the highest caliber themselves, but who
are surrounding themselves with first-rate cabinet officials.

Let me comment briefly on two other areas where our cooperation has
entered a new era -- fighting corruption and protecting the environment.

The nations of the hemisphere just negotiated an unprecedented anti-
corruption convention through the OAS that requires countries to adopt
laws on bribing foreign officials roughly equivalent to the standards of
the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. As you know, we have reached
agreement with the OECD for countries to prevent bribes paid to foreign
officials from being tax-deductible as a business expense. We are
pushing for the next step -- to ensure that bribery is treated as a
crime. I have been deeply involved in such efforts since my days as
Deputy Secretary in the 1970s, and I am gratified to see our efforts
finally paying dividends.

We will advance our hemispheric efforts to help preserve the environment
when the Summit's Conference on Sustainable Development meets in Bolivia
later this year. At Stanford University three weeks ago, I stressed the
importance of integrating environmental issues into the mainstream of
our foreign policy. Whether in confronting the costs of climate change
or the impact of deforestation on the consolidation of democracy in
Haiti, addressing these issues is squarely in America's interest. That
includes helping American companies expand their commanding share of a
400 billion dollar market for environmental technologies. We all need
to recognize that pitting economic growth against environmental
protection is what President Clinton has called "a false choice."

This broad cooperation in Latin America would not be possible without
the great progress that our hemisphere has made toward democratic
governments and open markets. And as we have seen from Mexico to
Paraguay, that great progress in turn would not have democratic
governments and open markets. And as we have seen from Mexico to
Paraguay, that great progress in turn would not have been possible
without American leadership and the budget resources that we need to
support our diplomacy.

The private sector has an essential role to play in making the vision of
Miami a reality. It is your companies' investments and innovations that
are breaking down barriers between our economies and building bridges
between our peoples. In the coming months, I look to the continuing
advice and support of the Council -- and the dynamism of its members --
to ensure that the United States leads the way toward the creation of a
stable, democratic and prosperous Western Hemisphere.

Thank you very much.