The Council of the Americas (COA) 41st Washington Conference, held at the Department of State on Wednesday, was a remarkable showcase of support for the partnership that is integrating the Americas and laying the basis for the region's global competitiveness in the 21st century.
One of the most important messages I took away was the strength of commitment to that process that came from bipartisan U.S. political leaders present, heads of state, and ministers of state from South America, Central America, and North America, as well as business leaders from all over the Americas.
Secretary Clinton launched the conference by outlining the wide range of our critical strategic interests in the Americas, and the burgeoning U.S. partnerships throughout the region. Noting that countries of the Western Hemisphere “will rise or fall together in the 21st century,” she talked about the many ways President Obama's recent trip to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador advanced our cooperation on security, energy, and economic growth -- and stressed the need for us to learn from each other about “what works,” particularly as we all cooperate to promote equality. She also praised the leadership of countries like Mexico and Colombia, as well as Canada and major European partners, in advancing citizen security throughout the region. U.S. Senator John McCain reiterated the strategic importance of the Americas. He praised the administration for moving forward to secure approval of the pending Colombia and Panama Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). The evening before, the COA honored Senators Robert Menendez and Richard Lugar for their long commitment to strong hemispheric ties.
President Calderon of Mexico and President Funes of El Salvador, as well Colombia and Canada's Finance Ministers, also spoke eloquently about the partnership and integration that are transforming the Americas. The Alianza del Pacifico, recently created by Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, is a case in point -- a big step toward creating the largest sub-regional economic bloc in South America, and strengthening ties to the most dynamic economies of East Asia.
The COA conference was a great example of how decisively the countries of the Americas have turned the page on old ideologies and divisions and, almost without exception, are working together in myriad pragmatic ways to address common problems and create opportunity for our peoples. It is a process to which the United States and our policies are wholeheartedly committed, and it was great to spend the day with so many partners in that quest.