Twenty Seventh Lecture - Bill Richardson

Bill Richardson

Twenty Seventh Lecture - April 1, 2008

“Immigration and Hemispheric Affairs"

Speaker: Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico and Former U.S. Presidential Candidate

Two weeks ago, regional tensions between Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela were at their highest level in decades. For the first time in a long time, military troops amassed on the borders of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, while some parties made threats of war.

At a summit in the Dominican Republic, the three countries came together, put aside pride, and engaged in personal diplomacy to make peace for their people. Shortly after, they would come together through this body to renew peace in the region. I want to congratulate this body and its members for its unwavering commitment to keeping the peace.

This type of frank personal engagement and multilateral diplomacy is needed in the world today.

I believe that the United States must renew and invigorate its relationship with Latin America based on the same principles of engagement, dialogue and cooperation. We need a new relationship with Latin America that takes a constructive realistic approach--recognizing our mutual interests and bridging our honest differences.

Over the last 7 years, US foreign policy has all but ignored Latin America. But the region has not stood still—growing on average by 5 percent per year, initiating dozens of intra-regional trade agreements, and luring $125 billion in foreign domestic investment last year from countries like India and China.

Latin America also remains the region perhaps with the greatest impact on the daily lives of Americans. Mexico is a more important source of oil than Saudi Arabia. The US exports $225 billion to Latin America—four times more than China. And Hispanics in the US now represent America’s biggest ethnic bloc and perhaps the most sought after voting bloc.

And while Central and South America has started to turn elsewhere for investment and trading partners, the United States remains the number one market for Latin American goods. And the $60 billion in annual remittances remains a vital source of income for much of the region.

Latin America and the United States have key mutual interests in working together to fight crime networks and stop narco-traffic. Law enforcement is essential, but more cooperation is necessary. While we fight drug trafficking and arrest and punish dealers, we need to do more to reduce demand in the United States. I learned this in New Mexico. As we shut down over 400 meth labs, dramatically reducing the supply, we also fought to reduce demand by providing treatment to break the addiction cycle.

Full Speech