Media Center



January 16, 2002 - Washington, DC

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you for that very warm welcome. It's such a

pleasure to be here tonight for this gathering. I want to thank the World

Affairs Council for promoting citizen interest in global issues -- especially an

interest in our own hemisphere and its importance to our country.

Eldon, thank you very much for your fine introduction. Back stage he was

wondering whether or not I could understand his accent. I said, that's not the

problem, the problem is can you understand mine? (Laughter.)

I want to thank Jerry Leach, as well. I want to thank the leadership here

at the OAS. Cesar, thank you very much for your continued hospitality and

leadership. It's good to see my friend, Luigi, again. I want to thank Enrique

Iglesias, as well. I want to thank members of my Cabinet who are here, in

particular, Mel Martinez, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Thank

you, Mel. (Applause.)

I'm pleased to see Roger Noriega, el Embajador de los Estados Unidos a la

OAS, for being here. Thank you, Roger. (Applause.)

A new member of my team is Otto Reich, Assistant Secretary for the Western

Hemisphere. I appreciate Otto being here. (Applause.)

And, of course, I want to thank members of my National Security Council who

are here, Condi Rice and John Maisto, for their sound and solid advice. Thank

you all for coming. (Applause.)

In September of last year, I welcomed my good friend, the President of

Mexico, to the White House. Standing together on the South Lawn, President Fox

and I spoke of building a hemisphere of freedom and prosperity and progress.

That was five days before the terrorists attacked the peace and security of the

world -- murdering thousands of citizens from over 80 nations, including almost

every nation in this hemisphere.

Since the attacks, the United States has received incredible sympathy and

support from our neighbors and friends. I've been in close contact with

democratic leaders such as Prime Minister Chretien, and President Fox, and

President Cardoso, President Lagos and President Toledo, to name a few. We've

been talking on a regular basis about our common interests. Democratic leaders

throughout the Americas have offered help and wisdom, friendship, and even

peacekeepers, and for that this country is very grateful.

The nations of the Western Hemisphere are resolved. We refuse to live in

fear, so we will fight terror wherever it is exists. And we're committed to

building a prosperous and free and democratic hemisphere. Nothing will distract

us, nothing will deter us, in completing this great work.

We meet, however, at a time when there are some who question the path to

prosperity and stability. Some wonder whether free market reforms are too

painful to continue. Some question the fairness of free and open trade, while

holding out the false comfort of protectionism. And there is even greater

danger -- that some may come to doubt democracy itself.

Our answer to these questions and doubts must be clear and it must be

consistent: The hopes of all our peoples, everybody who lives in this

hemisphere, no matter where they live --lie in greater freedom. Free markets

and open trade are the best weapons against poverty, disease and tyranny. And

democracy is the non-negotiable demand of human dignity.

The future of this hemisphere depends on the strength of three commitments:

democracy, security and market-based development. These commitments are

inseparable, and none will be achieved by half-measures. This road is not

always easy, but it's the only road to stability and prosperity for all the

people -- all the people -- who live in this hemisphere.

Our first commitment is to democracy and political freedom. This is

affirmed in the Democratic Charter of the Americas, which holds this: only

democracies can be part of our inter-American dialogue and system. And these

governments cannot be democratic in name only. Citizens and businesses must

know that the town hall -- the alcaldia -- is free from bribery, and cronyism

and all forms of corruption. These old attitudes and habits are a form of

theft, stealing from people their money and their trust, and their hopes for a

better life. For freedom and prosperity to come, corruption must go. Freedom

-- the freedom to vote, the freedom to speak your mind, the freedom to worship

and Almighty God, the freedom to own your own property -- is the great idea of

our time; it is the great idea of all time. And by building governments that

are more open and honest and fair, we will make freedom more meaningful for all

our citizens.

Our second commitment is to security, security against acts of terror. It

is the great calling of the 21st century. And I can assure you this nation will

not tire, we will not fade. We'll be resolute in our determination to rout out

terror wherever it exists -- in our neighborhood or neighborhoods around the

world. Security against the lawless violence of drug cartels and their

accomplishments -- accomplices. Our citizens must know that they can exercise

their freedoms in security and in peace.

And that is why, for example, the United States, Canada and Mexico are

cooperating in unprecedented ways to build "smart borders" for the 21st century

that ensure safety for ordinary people and trade, but filters out terror and


And that is also why the United States remains committed to helping nations

like Colombia defend her democracy. Colombia and the Andean nations are

strengthening law enforcement, reducing illegal crops, and expanding legitimate

business opportunities as viable alternatives to drug farming and drug

trafficking. The United States Congress and I recently approved $625 million to

support these efforts. America will help all nations in the region in cutting

off the supply of drugs. And just as importantly, America will help the nations

of the regions by reducing the demand for drugs within our own borders.


Our third commitment is to growing and stable economies where the benefits

of growth are widely shared; economies where small business owners, and farmers

and workers and investors are all able to build and earn their own prosperity.

We must foster policies that reward, not punish, entrepreneurship, work and

creativity. We understand that sustained development depends on market-based

economies, on sound monetary and fiscal policies, and freer trade in our


Recent events in Argentina do nothing to change this reality. America is

deeply concerned about the difficulties facing our ally and our friend; and

we're deeply concerned about the effects of the economy on Argentina's great

people. We share ties of commerce and culture and family. America is hopeful

that Argentina will get through these tough times. It was an encouraging sign

that the President, on taking office, expressed a desire to pursue a Free Trade

Area of the Americas.

Argentina -- and nations throughout our hemisphere -- need to strengthen

our commitment to market-based reform, not weaken it. Shortcuts to reform only

lead to more trouble. Half-measures will not halve the pain, only prolong it.

The United States is prepared to help Argentina weather this storm. Once

Argentina has committed to a sound and sustainable economic plan, I will support

assistance for Argentina through international financial institutions. This

assistance can soften the impact of the crisis on the lives of the Argentine

people, and help their country return to growth and prosperity.

Success in the global economy comes to countries that maintain fiscal

discipline, open their borders to trade, privatize inefficient state

enterprises, deregulate their domestic markets, and invest in the health and

education of their people. And those who promise painless protectionism or

security through statism, assure a bleak and stagnant future for their people.

Countries that stay on the hard road of reform are rewarded. Just look at

Chile. Chile has cut its poverty rate in half over the last decade. It has cut

its child mortality rate by almost two-thirds since 1980. Mexico withstood the

setbacks of the mid-1990s, and its economy has grown by more than 4 percent

annually since 1996. Costa Rica's emphasis on education and attracting foreign

investment has transformed its economy over the past decade. Costa Rica's

exports of computer products are now almost four times greater in value than its

banana exports, and nearly eight times greater than its coffee exports.

My nation is no stranger to the difficulties of reform and restructuring.

A generation ago, our government made a mistaken and failed experiment with wage

and price controls. Later, during the 1970s and 1980s, millions of our workers

were displaced as our industries adapted to the demands of a new global economy.

We've grown through the pains of recession, inflation and unemployment by

strengthening our commitments to markets, by enacting sound monetary and fiscal

policies, and by embracing free trade. In the end, each of these challenges

made us stronger and more prosperous. With all its tests and difficulties, a

faith in freedom is never disappointed.

This belief in markets is justified within our borders, and beyond them.

Open trade and investment bring healthy, growing economies, and can serve the

cause of democratic reform. From the success of NAFTA, we know these are facts,

not theories.

Acting on this belief, we went to Doha, and strongly support a new global

trade negotiations.

In this region, we are acting on a number of fronts. We're working to

build a Free Trade Area of the Americas, and we're determined to complete those

negotiations by January of 2005. We plan to complete a free trade agreement

with Chile early this year. And once we conclude the agreement, I urge Congress

to take it up quickly. And I ask the Senate to schedule a vote, as soon as it

returns, on renewing and expanding the Andean Trade Preference Act. (Applause.)

Today, I announce that the United States will explore a free trade

agreement with the countries of Central America. (Applause.) My administration

will work closely with Congress toward this goal. Our purpose is to strengthen

the economic ties we already have with these nations; to reinforce their

progress toward economic and political and social reform; and to take another

step toward completing the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

All of these efforts depend on one thing: Congress must pass trade

promotion authority. (Applause.) The House of Representatives acted. In the

Senate, the Finance Committee has given its strong bipartisan approval. Now

it's time for the full Senate to approve trade promotion authority, so I can put

it to work for the good of America -- and all of the Americas.

Markets and trade, development and democracy, rely on healthy and educated

people. Therefore, we are also working to bring better health care and greater

literacy to the nations of our hemisphere. The United States' funding for

international basic education assistance programs this year will be over 45

percent higher than last year. And this spring, the first of our regional

teacher training centers will open in Jamaica. Additional centers will be

operating in South and Central America by year's end.

I have called upon the World Bank and other development banks to increase

the share of their funding devoted to education. The Inter-American Development

Bank has significantly increased this share over the past year. All the

development banks should keep moving in the direction of making sure our

neighborhood is well educated.

I've also urged the World Bank to provide up to 50 percent of its

assistance to the world's poorest nations in the form of grants rather than

loans -- grants for education, for health, for nutrition, for water supplies

and for sanitation.

To this end, my next budget will include nearly $50 million increase in aid

to the World Bank programs that assist the poorest countries. If the Bank

demonstrates it can use the funds to achieve measurable results and helps move

forward reform, I'm prepared to consider requesting increases over $100 million

in each of my subsequent budgets. This would mean that the amount -- the annual

U.S. contribution to these World Bank programs would be 30 percent higher than

three years ago.

This hemisphere is on the path of reform, and our nations travel it

together. We share a vision -- a partnership of strong and equal and

prosperous countries, living and trading in freedom. Together, we will defend

that vision against lawlessness and violence. We will assert it against

terrorism and protectionism. Especially in times of adversity, we'll maintain

our vision, because it unleashes the possibilities of every society and

recognizes the dignity of every person. Together -- and I mean together -- we

will build and defend this hemisphere of liberty.

Thank you for coming. (Applause.)