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George W. Bush Commits To Free Trade With Latin America

This is the text of excerpts from a speech delivered by George W. Bush at Florida International University in Miami.

The remarks point to the importance of trading blocs in the global economy and their strategic defence implications.

Speech by George W. Bush at Florida International University, Miami.

Should I become president, I will look south, not as an afterthought, but as a fundamental commitment of my presidency. Just as we ended the great divide between East and West, so today we can overcome the North-South divide.

This begins with a renewed commitment to democracy and freedom in this hemisphere — because human freedom, in the long run, is our best weapon against poverty, disease and tyranny. . . .

The United States is destined to have a “special relationship” with Mexico, as clear and strong as we have had with Canada and Great Britain.

Historically, we have had no closer friends and allies.

And with Canada, our partner in NATO and Nafta, we share, not just a border, but a bond of good will.

Our ties of history and heritage with Mexico are just as deep.

Differences are inevitable between us. But they will be differences among family, not between rivals.

To strengthen that bond, our two countries need a meeting at the highest level, shortly after the American election — even before the new presidents of our nations are inaugurated. Should I be elected, I will use that November summit to keep Mexican-American relations moving forward.

We must talk about the availability and cleanliness of water on both sides of the border, about opening the promise of Nafta to small businesses and entrepreneurs, about economic development in areas of Mexico that send illegal immigrants to this country, about improving health and criminal justice in both nations.

Mexico is an emerging success story. Yet elsewhere in this hemisphere, democracy is still on trial — threatened by the false prophets of populism.

I look forward to working closely with the nations of this hemisphere but recognize that they cannot be bullied into progress.

We will treat all Americans — North, Central and South — with dignity.

I will improve our bilateral relations and work with the Organization of American States to confront the problems of our hemisphere.

My administration will strengthen the architecture of democracy in Latin America — the institutions that make democracy real and successful.

The basics of democracy should be refreshed with programs that train responsible police and judges.

We will encourage professional and civilian-controlled militaries, through contact with our own.

The principles of free speech should be advanced through American media exchanges.

We will create a new “American Fellows” program, inviting young men and women throughout the Americas to work for a year in various agencies of our government.

We will encourage party-building and help monitor elections.

These are ways to treat the symptoms of corruption and discord before they turn into violence and abuse of human rights.

To all the nations of Latin America I say: As long as you are on the road toward liberty, you will not be alone. As long as you are moving toward freedom, you will have a steady friend in the United States of America.

The health of a democracy depends on real economic gains for average citizens. And this requires Latin American governments to act for themselves: To lift the barriers of bureaucracy and overregulation that prevent the poor from creating legal small businesses. To give more priority and funding to universal education — because no nation can afford to squander the talent of its people.

Our nation can be an ally in these efforts. The future of this hemisphere lies with the creation of millions of small businesses among the poor — the surest path out of poverty.

But the poor in Latin America often have no access to small amounts of working capital — to credit cards or bank loans — that would help them buy something as simple as an oven to bake and sell bread. So I support what are called “microloans” — small, no-collateral loans allowing the poor to build a business and employ their neighbors.

As president, I will ask Congress for $100 million dollars to help microcredit organizations that are working in Latin America. And I will ask the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank to add to this investment.

We will apply the power of markets to the needs of the poor. We can also use the power of debt reduction to relieve poverty and protect the resources that sustain life in the Americas.

We will link debt reduction and the conservation of tropical forests.

These forests affect the air we breathe, the food we eat, medicines that cure disease, and are home to more than half of earth’s animal and plant species.

Expanding the aims of the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, I will ask Congress to provide $100 million to support the exchange of debt reduction for the protection of tropical forests.

In addition, we must recognize and promote the important role of American charities and churches and relief organizations in Latin America — organizations which build housing, health clinics and schools.

Groups like Amigos de las Americas, which trains young people to be community health workers in the region.

These are practical and effective ways for the wealth and compassion of America to help all the Americas — and introduce many of our own people to their nation’s neighborhood. . . .

If the United States cannot offer new trade with the nations of Latin America, they will find it elsewhere — as they are doing already in new agreements with the European Union.

In the last few years, Mexico signed a trade agreement with the Europeans, while Canada has a new trade pact with Chile. All of this while, in Washington, time has been lost.

European businesses and consumers are benefiting — ours are not.

I don’t fault our European friends for making these deals.

We dropped the ball, and they’re running with it.

But we must get back into the game, and here is how I propose to do it.

First, I will secure fast-track authority — the ability to pass or reject trade agreements without amendment.

Without it, as we have seen, America is slow to move, and other nations are unwilling to negotiate with us seriously.

When the next president sits at the Americas Summit in Quebec next April, other nations must know that fast-track trade authority is on the way.

Our goal will be free-trade agreements with all the nations of Latin America.

We can do so in cooperation with our NAFTA partners.

We should do so with Chile, and Brazil and Argentina, the anchor states of Mercosur.

Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America, with such vast economic potential, and our relations must reflect this.

We will also work toward free trade with the smaller nations of Central America and the Caribbean.

We must be flexible because one-size-fits-all negotiations are not always the answer.

But the ultimate goal will remain constant — free trade from northernmost Canada to the tip of Cape Horn.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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