Media Center

Press Release


  April 1, 2008

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson wants the United States to develop a new partnership with the Americas, as this would help foster equitable development in Latin America and the Caribbean, through the adoption of free and fair trade agreements, among other measures.

Governor Richardson made the comments at the Organization of American States (OAS) headquarters on Tuesday, while headlining the 27th conference in the Lecture Series of the Americas, on the topic “Immigration and Hemispheric Affairs.” He said “we need a new relationship with Latin America so we can have real, constructive engagement by recognizing our mutual interests and working together honestly to settle our differences.”

The former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations went on to talk about factors that, he believed, justify closer relations, including the region’s 5 per cent per annum economic growth rate and some $125 billion in foreign investment the region has attracted, with direct impact on the livelihood of U.S. citizens. Illustrating the importance of this impact, Richardson said “Mexico is a much more important source of oil than Saudi Arabia.” U.S. exports to Latin America total more than $225 billion, four times what it exports to China, he pointed out. “And Latin Americans in the United States are now the largest voting bloc and perhaps the most sought-after for the next election. Clearly, $60 billion in annual remittances is a vital source of income for the region. Latin America and the United States have a shared interest in working together.”

“We should not be demonizing immigrants. We need comprehensive immigration reform that is real and human. We need to talk about a path to legalization,” said Richardson, describing illegal immigration as an economic phenomenon generated by lack of decent jobs for people in their countries of origin. The New Mexico Governor stated that fostering equitable development in Latin America is the only way to bring comprehensive focus to the question of migration to the United States.

Addressing these issues calls for a new Alliance for Progress involving the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, declared Richardson. But, he asserted, this should not be a “unilateral premised on economic expansion for the United States; it should not be an agreement that imposes the Washington Consensus; neither should it mean dividing up countries into categories of friends and enemies. Accordingly, the Democratic governor recalled President John F. Kennedy and his principle of building a hemisphere where everyone can live in dignity and freedom.

Governor Richardson also cited elements that a new U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean should incorporate. He supported the idea of his country accepting the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, stressing the need to send a message that “it is important for our foreign policy to promote human rights.”

He argued for what he called a “realistic focus in relations with Cuba,” and supports putting particular importance on relations with Argentina, Brazil and Chile while strengthening institutions such as the United Nations and the OAS itself. He also suggested that a permanent seat on the UN Security Council should be reserved for a country from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bill Richardson was re-elected Governor of New Mexico in 2006. In December 2006, he was appointed by OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza as his special envoy for hemispheric affairs, to promote discussion on issues such as migration and free trade that are important to the region.

Reference: E-107/08