Global prosperity and
sound business partnerships
Richard L. Armitage
Deputy Secretary of State
Remarks at 2003 Hispanic Business Roundtable
May 19, 2003
afternoon. I guess, well, it's still morning technically. I can't tell you how
happy I am to be here. You have just allowed me to escape a budget hearing. It's
budget time around here. We have to hold budget hearings for each of the
regional and functional bureaus, and the whole family of the State Department.
So I am truly, truly delighted to be here.
also delighted to be here because I am in an audience here that includes
business leaders from some of the largest corporations in the world -- and from,
frankly, some of the smallest businesses in the neighborhood. I think it's safe
to say, however, that you all have something in common, and that is the firm
determination to succeed. Indeed, I feel my net worth rising just being in the
room with you.
you also share a desire to lock in the gains of your success, to look for new
opportunities and new markets, or you wouldn't be here in the first place. So I
congratulate you for that innovative spirit. This is the raw dynamism, renewed
generation after generation, that has made this a great nation.
want to thank my colleagues for their contribution: Secretaries Snow and Evans,
Administrator Barreto, Associate Trade Representative Shiner, Counselor
Gonzales. Taken together, I am quite sure that they told you everything there is
to know about the commerce and the trade opportunities of Latin America and why
this country, with the fifth largest Spanish-speaking population in the world,
should have such a comparative advantage. Although I concede we may have some
competition from our good friend and good ally, Spain.
any case, there has been much attention trained on the Spanish-speaking
population in the United States as a vibrant and growing domestic market. But
the more than 33 million people in this country who trace their heritage to the
nations of Latin America can act, if you'll allow me to use a military term, as
a force multiplier, giving us access to hundreds of millions more people around
the world. People to whom we have ties not just of opportunity and proximity,
but ties of language and culture, and, in many cases, ties of the heartstrings.
Again, this is something you were all well-aware of before you came here today,
something you have no doubt explored in great detail this morning. So, aside
from thanking you for your participation, I'd like to take a few moments to talk
to you about our broader foreign policy agenda. And why we consider it so
important to enlist the perspective and the energy of everyone in this room in
pursuing this policy.
have come here to our Department of State at a busy time of high stakes
diplomacy for this department. Our military performed brilliantly in Iraq, and
now the dedicated men and women of this department are working assiduously to
win the peace. We have a similar, and I must say, equally challenging mission
with our partners in Afghanistan. All while we continue to fight terrorism,
which, once again this morning, as we sit here, reared its head in Northern
Israel with further casualties and further losses. The effort to fight terrorism
is one that spans, in a variety of ways, 180 nations – a massive diplomatic
undertaking. But as we saw in Saudi Arabia and in Morocco and again in Israel
this weekend and today, it is an undertaking of the most vital importance. At
the same time, we continue to work with willing partners on everything from
North Korea's nuclear weapons, to the future of our transatlantic alliance.
think it is a legitimate question to ask where the countries of Latin America
fit into this whirlwind of urgency. And, indeed, there are those among you, I'm
sure, who would ask if these nations fit in at all. Well, I want to assure you
from the outset, President Bush has had a very clear view of the importance of
relations within this hemisphere. Immigration, narcotics trade, humanitarian
assistance are some of the critical issues that are on the table. Now, in truth,
they have been for previous administrations.
we believe this Administration also has a unique opportunity to see our
relations within this hemisphere not just in bilateral or regional terms, but as
an important part of a global approach to security and a global approach to
prosperity. I am sure, as members of the business community, you would agree
that economic prosperity in Panama, in Argentina, or, for that matter, Peoria,
depends on what happens in the Middle East, in East Asia or in Europe, and all
points in between, not just what happens within this hemisphere.
in that sense, while we will always cherish our national distinctions and
recognize our differences, boundaries fixed in territory are somewhat less
relevant today than in the past. Certainly, in the sense that the great threats
of our day, from terrorism to narcotics trafficking to disease, have no respect
for lines on a map. And for that matter, the great opportunities of our time –
trade, education, technology, communications – are less constrained by geography
ties between this country and those of Latin America, everything from proximity
to family, these ties only tighten that intertwining effect. So it comes as no
surprise that Latin American countries don't just have issues on the table, they
have a seat at the table when it comes to the most important challenges and
opportunities of the day.
literally, Chile and Mexico today have a seat on the UN Security Council where
later today we'll be tabling the post-Saddam Hussein resolution concerning the
future of Iraq. And knowing the frequency with which Secretary Powell speaks to
his Mexican and Chilean counterparts, I can assure you that he places a very
high priority indeed on the role those two countries play when it comes to
matters of global significance.
of our hemispheric partners form a link in the chain of global security when it
comes to terrorism. So we have been working together across the region with
great success to secure our borders, to secure our ports and air travel, while
still allowing the freest possible flow of goods and people. But we are also
working together to curb terrorist financing, to share both information and
intelligence, and to dismantle terrorist support networks in the region, as well
as, of course, around the world. And then there is Iraq, where the scenes we see
today of people frantically digging in the dirt of mass graves for some scrap of
cloth or length of bone to identify a loved one will surely be among the most
unforgettable images of this century.
countries of the hemisphere joined the coalition of the willing to disarm Iraq's
dictator. Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras,
Nicaragua, Panama, all, while some of these nations may have offered modest
contributions in terms of tangible military support, all made a tremendous
commitment of political and diplomatic support. As Secretary Powell recently
said, these countries followed the lead of Spain, the United Kingdom, and the
United States in making "a courageous stand for what is right, what is necessary
and what is just."
think these are all solid indicators that the nations of the region are
beginning to step up to their full potential as actors on the world stage, but
there are some high hurdles in the way, many of which are actually put in place
by the governments of the region. Secretary Powell recently said to the Council
of Americas, "We can combat terrorism and trafficking. We can fight disease. We
can strengthen human ties. We can expand trade, but none of our efforts will be
enough, if men and women lack confidence in their democracies, and lack
confidence in their prospects for a better future." The institutions of
democracy and free markets are still not as strong as they need to be across
Latin America and the Caribbean, and we see the symptoms of that in corruption,
inconsistency of the rule of law and the rule of regulation, an underdeveloped
entrepreneurial spirit and an inadequate education system.
there are certainly exceptions to those generalizations I have just made. And
for that matter, the overall trend has been one of improvement. Indeed, when we
think back to where we were just 20 years ago, or if we just look at the
economic and political mess and human misery that is Cuba today, it is
remarkable how much the region has changed for the better.
Quality of life has improved across so many indicators, from life expectancy to
infant mortality. And I believe the Free Trade Area of the Americas and other
agreements, as well as the Summit of the Americas, all of which I am sure you
have heard a lot about today, are good measures of communal success. Indeed,
when we in this America look around the world, we see tremendous potential for
partnership in our region.
government is constantly working to develop those partnerships through bilateral
missions and through trade negotiations. But there are other tools, such as the
Millennium Challenge Account, a new $5 billion foreign aid program, for which a
number of countries in the region will be eligible. And, of course, we continue
to look to this hemisphere for cooperation in a variety of multilateral settings
from the OAS to the aforementioned United Nations.
one thing we can't do is actually make other nations deliver on the promise of
their potential. Only the governments of those nations can do that. But all of
you, in our view, can certainly help in that regard. These countries are
valuable markets. Our markets are valuable to those countries. We will only
realize these opportunities and see the benefits if you make it clear what the
business climate has to look like in order for you to invest and in order for
you to stay. And if you hold these governments to that high standard, you'll be
helping to create the conditions that will extend your success and will also
extend the stability and prosperity of the region, and extend the region's
influence on global affairs.
this world, where boundaries sometimes exist more on paper and in the past than
in our daily reality, no company, and indeed no country can afford to go it
alone. Ultimately, the success of this country, both in terms of our economy and
our security, depends on the success of our partners. This is especially true of
the success of our neighbors. And so I can assure you, without fear of
contradiction, that the United States Government will continue to seek
partnerships with the governments of our hemisphere on our common bilateral,
regional, global opportunities, as well as the threats we face.
my hope that with this forum today, we have helped establish a partnership with
all of you and a dialogue about the ways in which we can reinforce each other's
success. And I also hope that your sense of possibility has been expanded by
this occasion. This is what we hoped to achieve, and that you will seek broader
partnerships with each other and with your counterparts across the Americas.
thank you very much for all of the time you have invested in this conference. We
have got no question in our minds but that it will bear tremendous dividends for
us all. Thank you very, very much for your participation.
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May 26, 2003