About the Author: Daniel Sullivan serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs.
I am about to walk in to a meeting between President Bush and leaders from eleven of the nations we have negotiated free trade agreements within the Western Hemisphere -- Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Peru. It is rare that so many leaders from other countries get together in one room to talk about important issues of the day, so I am really excited.
Today, President Bush and the other leaders will discuss how to ensure that the benefits of trade are broadly shared throughout our societies. Free trade agreements have proven to be invaluable tools for promoting prosperity throughout the Americas while also deepening our strategic ties in the region. These countries are our natural allies -- they share our commitment to democracy, to ensuring that all members of society enjoy the benefits of free trade and economic development, and to improving the environmental and labor situation in a continent that continues to struggle with income inequality and social exclusion.
Robust international trade is crucial to the health of the U.S. economy. With trade accounting for nearly two-thirds of U.S. economic growth from the second quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2008, we need to ensure that our trade will continue to expand so that it can contribute to U.S. economic growth in the future.
One of the best ways to increase opportunities for American farmers, manufacturers, and businesses is to negotiate and implement free trade agreements (FTAs). When President Bush took office, the United States had FTAs in force with three countries. Today, the United States has agreements in force with 14 countries, as well as three approved by Congress but not yet in force. U.S. exports have increased with every country with which the United States has an FTA, which means more good jobs for American workers.
Over the last few years, my colleagues and I at the State Department have traveled throughout Latin America to strengthen our regional partnerships. During these trips, I have heard over and over again that our friends desire a closer relationship with the United States, but are worried about rising protectionism. I join our partners -- those leaders which President Bush will be meeting with this morning -- in believing that trade is not the problem but a significant opportunity for our citizens.
I'll let you know later in the day how the meeting went. I look forward to future meetings of this group, and hope other countries in our Hemisphere will join with us. The problems that we face are not insurmountable if we cooperate together to solve them.
Editor's Note: Read Assistant Secretary Sullivan's next entry about the meeting.