Media Center



December 8, 1998 - Miami

I would first like to thank Caribbean/Latin American Action for inviting me to speak to such a distinguished audience of private sector and government experts and later, to take part in the discussion session to follow. I welcome this chance to share my views on the opportunities and challenges confronting the Western Hemisphere and specifically the Free Trade Area of the Americas.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is a crucial moment for relations among the countries of the Americas. As we approach the eve of the twenty-first century, we find ourselves more inter-dependent than ever before. Trade among countries has increased as policy makers have lowered tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade, and investment. Daily foreign exchange turnover has increased dramatically, and foreign investment flows from country to country at unprecedented rates. A recent IDB/IRELA study shows that during the 1990s, FDI flows to Latin America and the Caribbean have been on average five times higher than during the previous decade. More than half of the Hemisphere’s exports remain within the Americas, and countries of the Americas are investing in one another - we are truly important economic partners to each other. As such, the next steps that we take will determine the nature of hemispheric relations in the twenty first century.

In the last few years, the foundations of the framework for inter-American relations in the next century have been laid. The Miami Summit of the Americas initiated the process, setting forth twenty-three initiatives for improving the Americas. These included a proposal to eliminate barriers to trade and investment among our thirty-four countries. Since then, governments in the Americas have been laying the technical groundwork for the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

The culmination of this work is the Declaration of San José, which sets out the principles and structure of the negotiations and the decision, announced at the second Summit of the Americas in Santiago Chile, to launch the negotiations. This year, countries have taken the first concrete steps towards creating an economic space, free of barriers to trade and investment in the Americas by 2005. Starting in September of this year, over 750 negotiators from 34 countries have just finished the first round of meetings of the FTAA negotiations in nine areas that range from traditional areas such as market access and antidumping to new issues like investment and intellectual property, to even newer areas, like competition policy. Consultative Groups have been set up on smaller economies, electronic commerce, and civil society. This represents a remarkable commitment of political will, technical talent, and strategic positioning.

To negotiate specific agreements on these issues is both a political and technical undertaking. Countries will require a great deal of human and material resources to prepare for these negotiations as, in many cases, they will be charting unknown territory. Fortunately, the preparatory process leading to the launching of the negotiations has already set the groundwork. Countries have developed, with the support of the Tripartite Committee institutions - the IDB, ECLAC, and the OAS - a considerable amount of information on the rules and policies currently in force in the Western Hemisphere on the various issues under negotiation. We, at the OAS, have been and remain fully committed to supporting the FTAA process as we see the FTAA as a vehicle to strengthen trade and economic links among the countries of the Americas and to set up a new framework for inter-American cooperation. This will make a significant contribution to the well being of the citizens of the Americas.

Just last week, the FTAA Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) met in Suriname. There, the Vice-Ministers of Trade continued the process of preparing for the Trade Ministerial to be held in Canada in October next year. Officials from across the Hemisphere spent two days establishing the management guidelines for the full set of FTAA entities including the TNC, the Negotiating and Consultative Groups, the Administrative Secretariat here in Miami, and the Tripartite Committee. These discussions led to the establishment of a kind of "manual" for the operation of the FTAA process.

In addition, the countries focused on evaluating the feasibility of a range of business facilitation measures, and agreed to focus primarily on the area of customs. The goal of this exercise is to respond to the Presidential mandate and private sector concerns that the FTAA produce concrete results in promoting hemispheric integration by the end of the century. There is an intense schedule of FTAA meetings in 1999, many of which will take place here in Miami. Addressing private sector concerns will be high on the agenda. This process will help to translate the preparatory talks into concrete action.

The title of this conference --- Business in the Hemisphere: from Talk to Action is an appropriate one. Now more than ever before, the private sector is playing a key role in shaping the global economy. By developing new technologies, by investing in innovative ventures, by driving the process of globalization, and by supporting the expansion of new regional and hemispheric markets, the business people of the Americas play a crucial role in determining the future framework for commerce and investment. It is the private sector that will operationalize the promises of the FTAA and make these objectives a reality.

A key attraction of the FTAA is its potential to provide business with a uniform set of rules for trade and investment activities in the Hemisphere. One of our key challenges – your key challenge, ladies and gentlemen – is to realize the goal that was set forth at the Miami Summit and that has been reiterated in each of the four Ministerial Declarations: to achieve concrete progress by the end of this century. I cannot over-emphasize the importance – or the challenge – of this goal.

As the host of a series of important hemispheric meetings leading up to, and including the next Summit of the Americas, Canada’s voice in the Americas is stronger than ever. It is my great pleasure and honor to introduce to you one of the key players in this process --- and an example of the increasingly inter-twined fortunes of the Americas. Mr. Sergio Marchi, Canada’s Minister for International Trade, represents Canada’s commitment and leadership in this FTAA process. Having been born in Argentina , Mr. Marchi can certainly speak to the task of creating a free trade area from the Yukon to Tierra del Fuego. As current pro tempore Chair, Canada has the important task of leading the FTAA process in this first phase of the negotiations – and the challenge of translating all of the previous discussions on concrete progress into action.

Before his appointment as Minister for International Trade in June 1997, Minister Marchi held the portfolios of Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Minister of the Environment. Minister Marchi was also a member of the Cabinet Committees for Treasury Board, Social Policy, Economic Development Policy, and Program Review. He currently sits on the Cabinet Committee for Economic Union, in addition to his ministerial responsibilities. I look forward to hearing Mr. Marchi’s views on the FTAA and on Canada’s role in hemispheric relations, and I am sure you all do as well.

Minister Marchi, I now invite you to the podium.