A New Era of Cooperation in the Americas

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
April 21, 2015
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the 45th Annual Washington Conference on the Americas, at the U.S. Department of State

At the Summit of the Americas earlier this month, President Obama said, “When I came to my first Summit of the Americas six years ago, I promised to begin a new chapter of engagement in this region.  I believed that our nations had to break free from the old arguments, the old grievances that had too often trapped us in the past, that we had a shared responsibility to look to the future and to think and act in fresh ways.  I pledged to build a new era of cooperation between our countries, as equal partners, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”

Today, Secretary of State John Kerry echoed the President’s sentiments in remarks at the 45th Annual Washington Conference of the Council of the Americas, where he underscored how the United States is meeting that commitment in the region: “What we need is for a common agenda for the shared progress, a blueprint for the next steps that will help to ensure the democratic and economic promise in the region is actually fulfilled.  That is why the United States is engaged throughout the Americas on priorities that our partner governments and its citizens themselves have identified as important.  These priorities fall into three broad categories.  They include the building blocks of shared prosperity – education, innovation, trade, investment.  They include energy and environmental security.  And they include reconciliation and strengthening democratic and inter-American institutions across the board.”

Building Blocks of Shared Prosperity

Secretary Kerry said, “To succeed, we must do more to empower the people of our hemisphere with education, technology, open governance, and innovation.  And that is exactly what we’re trying to do.” Since President Obama first announced the 100,000 Strong Initiative in 2011, the student exchange figures are up 13 percent for U.S. students to the region and 12 percent for students from the region to the United States.  

The Secretary discussed how the U.S. is laying the foundation for creating the jobs of the future, “If our goal is to reduce poverty, which it is; to further expand the middle class, which it is; to help families build a better life for their children; which it is; to offer the alternatives to crime and violence, narcotics, and so forth; the answer is pretty simple.  We need to not only educate; we need to innovate.  And that means doing more to help small businesses promote jobs and tap into the global economy.”

One of the smartest investments that we can make, Secretary Kerry noted, is in the promise and the potential of women and girls. "No team can win a game with half the team on the bench.  It doesn’t work.  No economy can thrive when women are not given a seat at the table.  And it’s clear from all the evidence that every time women are – and girls – given the opportunity to be able to participate and take part, it changes and transforms, it stabilizes; it opens up the possibilities of democracy, and often, peace.  That’s why President Obama launched the Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas initiative to give women and girls the training and tools that they need to become the next president, CEOs, and entrepreneurs in their communities.”

Secretary Kerry also undescored the impact trade and investment can have on shared prosperity in the Americas.  He said, “Our free trade agreements with 12 countries, from Canada to Chile, have expanded economic opportunity for millions there and here.  Pacific Alliance countries are pursuing the vision of a more fully integrated and open Latin America.  We’re working now with four other countries in this hemisphere on a high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership.  And I am very happy to see trade promotion authority beginning its journey through Congress in preparation for that agreement.  TPP will build prosperity throughout the region, and it will do so based on shared principles.  This is not just a technical trade agreement.  It’s a strategic opportunity to be able to raise standards, to be able to put our values into a trade agreement itself, and we need to seize it.” 

Energy and Environmental Security

Shared progress can also be found through joint action on clean energy and climate change, Secretary Kerry underscored in his remarks, saying “While many of the hemisphere’s largest countries are global energy producers, many of the smaller ones are bearing the biggest burden when it comes to extreme weather events, like hurricanes, tropical storms…If you look at the economic costs, it is far, far more expensive to pay for the dislocation, the disruption, for the crises that are coming at us as a consequence of climate change, than it is to adjust your energy policies now in order to avoid it.”

Secretary Kerry urged that the solution to climate change -- making the right choices in energy policy -- will ensure that we avoid the worst consequences.  “So just as climate change presents the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean with a common threat, the need to develop secure and sustainable energy sources is a shared opportunity, and it is an opportunity to make the right choices – the right choices about conservation, about wind and solar power, about hydro, about fuel and utility standards, about efficiency, about building codes, about transportation choices, about setting ambitious targets to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.”

Reconciliation and Strengthening Democratic Institutions

Creating strong and equitable economies -- is essential to the future of our hemisphere -- and will become easier if we are able to remove some of the obstacles to political cooperation that have been holding us back. Secretary Kerry discussed the longstanding civil conflict between the Government of Colombia and the FARC saying, “We’ve seen in recent days this effort to establish a lasting peace is obviously not easy; none are.  But the government and FARC have been fighting for longer than most Colombians have been alive.  And we know that if the parties can reach an agreement, if they can finally bring peace to a country that has seen over five decades of internal conflict, it will unleash enormous potential for the Colombian people.  Here in the United States, we will do all that we can to help Colombia achieve that peace.”

He continued to highlight opportunities of our own, for political cooperation. “In December, President Obama made the courageous decision to update our Cuba policy, which was doing far more to isolate the United States from our friends in the hemisphere than it was to isolate Havana.  In Panama, the President and I met for hours with our Cuban counterparts, the first such formal meetings since the 1950s.  And we’re committed to moving forward on the path to normalized relations.  This new course is based not on a leap of faith, but on a conviction that the best way to promote U.S. interests and values while also helping to bring greater freedom and opportunity to the Cuban people is exactly what we are doing.”

Secretary Kerry conveyed confidence that the United States’ commitment to a new kind of relationship with Latin America will contribute significantly to our common agenda for the hemisphere, which includes the strengthening of democracy and the respect for human rights.  “Why does this matter?" he asked.  "Well, it matters because countries are far more likely to advance economically and socially when citizens have faith in their governments and are able to rely on them for justice and equal treatment under the law.  It matters because young people who have opportunities at home will stay and contribute to their societies instead of leaving in search of better luck elsewhere.  It matters because freedom of thought and expression are the keys to innovation, which is how whole new industries begin.  It matters because, in that most curious of ways, people who are given the liberty to be different are also the ones most likely to unite and band together in the face of shared threats.”

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Comments

Tsegga M.
|
North Carolina, USA
April 22, 2015
Thank you Mr. Secretary -- Change maker. I appreciate your commitment and leadership to make a difference with diplomacy and collaborative influence @TseggaM
Patrick W.
|
Maryland, USA
April 22, 2015
I believe you have found the path we all need too follow. People shouldn't be forced to leave their home and become refugees. Everyone, including President Putin, should try to put an end to the suffering of the worlds refugee. That mean's fixing the problem in Syria for all of our countries. The Middle East is become a mess spilling over into everyone's countries , because of Syria . Syria is where it started, and then it spread across the Middle East.
Eric J.
|
New Mexico, USA
April 23, 2015

Buddy of mine down in Chile just had a volcano erupt in his backyard yesterday...too bad I can't post pics on this blog...his are better than anything the media has posted so far...in any case he gives this report;

Ensenada/Puerto Varas 10th region Chile.-
"Right now, there is about 18 to 20 inches of gravel/ash fall out, and there are quite a few roofs falling in. At the moment, they are letting people go back to their house to get things out, and check on the houses. There is a military and police control on the area. There is also a curfew on the area to help keep people safe, and keep theft down. Seems as though we'll keep getting more ash for a bit longer. It also seems that our house is just outside the ash fall out, and we have heard that there is only a mm's of ash at our house. So, it seems that all is relatively ok. My wife and I are safe though. I live 10-13 km from the crater, and have heard that my house only has 3mm of ash." He and his wife evacuated to a safe area, staying with friends.

San Martin de Los Andes, Argentina- another pic from a friend of his showed 2-3" of ash at this location,... with reports of a lot of ash blowing over the border into Argentina. Livestock at risk...this is looking to become a significant environmental and economic disaster in the fallout zone.

EJ 4/12/`15

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