Media Center

Press Release


  September 10, 2008

Despite progress in reducing extreme poverty and maintaining relative stability of democracy in the Americas over the last few years, Organization of American States Secretary General José Miguel Insulza acknowledged today that the hemisphere still faces significant challenges because of climate change, energy sustainability and steep food prices increases, among other factors.

“The challenges are piling [up],” the Secretary General warned, citing the energy situation stemming from oil price hikes. He also cited the food crisis as a real problem for Latin America, explaining that given the steep increases in food prices it is quite possible that some of those who had emerged from the ranks of the poor last year could very well return to poverty.

Secretary General Insulza told participants at the Twelfth Annual Conference on Trade and Investment in the Americas that the inflation problem facing some countries is significant, and that even so, “We still don’t know what the real effect of the financial crisis in the United States is going to be for Latin America.” He said these ought to be important areas of emphasis for the Conference, which is organized by the Andean Development Corporation in collaboration with Inter-American Dialogue and the OAS.

The two-day trade and investment conference, which ends Thursday, is being held at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in Washington, DC, and brings together U.S. and Latin American government officials, Congress members and staff, as well as leading policy analysts, journalists and corporate and financial leaders. Inter-American Dialogue President Peter Hakim chaired the opening session, at which Insulza and Andean Development Corporation President Enrique Garcia made opening remarks.

Insulza told the conference of other significant challenges affecting the region, such as alarming crime rates and, in some instances, governance issues. He urged them to also discuss the importance of the Fifth Summit of the Americas that will be held in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in April 2009.

He said participants should not be overly concerned about getting specific mention of Latin America or the Caribbean in the U.S. election campaigns because, at the end of the day, that is not really a problem. “The issues that we are concerned about are there [in the U.S. election campaign],” he argued, pointing to trade and explaining that Mexico buys as much from the U.S. as China; and Brazil buys as much as France. More important is what happens with the free-trade agreement in the post-election period, he stressed.

Crime, climate change, energy and immigration, among other central issues are equally important to the rest of the region as they are all common issues, Insulza observed. He stressed that a large amount of the U.S. oil supply comes from regional countries like Canada, Mexico and Venezuela. Rather, the OAS Secretary General pointed out, the focus ought to be more on “what we have in common in terms of policy, and how much we agree.”

Prominent issues on the Conference agenda include the region’s economic outlook; the impact of surging food and energy prices on Latin America’s social agenda; energy challenges; the upcoming 2009 Summit of the Americas; political developments in the Andean region; and the politics of Latin American relations.

Reference: E-339/08