merchandise exports to Mexico have nearly doubled since the conclusion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), making Mexico our second largest goods export market and trading partner. In the hemisphere as a whole, our trade initiatives offer a historic opportunity to capitalize on and strengthen the unprecedented trend toward democracy and free market economics.
We seek to advance the goal of an integrated hemisphere of free market democracies by building on NAFTA and obtaining Congressional Fast Track trade agreement approval procedures. Formal negotiations are in progress to initiate the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) by 2005. The negotiations cover a broad range of important issues, including market access, investment, services, government procurement, dispute settlement, agriculture, intellectual property rights, competition policy, subsidies, anti-dumping and countervailing duties. We will seek to ensure that the agreement also supports workers rights, environmental protection and sustainable development. We are also committed to delivering on the President’s promise to pursue a comprehensive free trade agreement with Chile because of its economic performance and its active role in promoting hemispheric economic integration. To address the concerns of smaller economies during the period of transition to the global economy of the twenty-first century, and in light of the increased competition NAFTA presents to Caribbean trade, we are seeking Congressional approval to provide enhanced trade benefits under the Caribbean Basin Initiative to help prepare that region for participation in the FTAA.
The United States will continue its effective partnership with the IMF, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the governments of Latin America, and the private sector to help the region’s countries in their transition to integrated, mature market economies. A key target of this partnership is assisting the reform and recovery of banking sectors hurt by financial market turmoil over the past several years. We will continue to support financial and economic reform efforts in Brazil and Argentina to reduce their vulnerability to external shocks, as well as helping Ecuador on its difficult road to economic recovery and sustainable levels of debt service.
We also view it as essential that economic prosperity in our hemisphere be pursued in an environmentally sustainable manner. From our shared seas and freshwater resources to migratory bird species and transboundary air pollution, the environmental policies of our neighbors can have a direct impact on quality of life at home. U.S. Government assistance to the region recognizes the vital link between sustainable use of natural resources and long-term prosperity, a key to developing prosperous trading partners in this hemisphere.
Many Latin American nations have made tremendous advances in democracy and economic progress over the last several years. But our ability to sustain the hemispheric agenda crafted at the Summit of the Americas depends in part on meeting the challenges posed by weak democratic institutions, persistently high unemployment and crime rates, and serious income disparities. In some Latin American countries, citizens will not fully realize the benefits of political liberalization and economic growth without regulatory, judicial, law enforcement and educational reforms, as well as increased efforts to integrate all members of society into the formal economy. The hemisphere’s leaders are committed to strengthening democracy, justice and human rights. They have pledged to intensify efforts to promote democratic reforms at the regional and local level, protect the rights of migrant workers and their families, improve the capabilities and competence of civil and criminal justice systems, and encourage a strong and active civil society. Specific initiatives include: ratification of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption to strengthen the integrity of governmental institutions; creation of a Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression as part of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights; and establishment of an Inter-American Justice Studies Center to facilitate training of personnel and the exchange of information and other forms of technical cooperation to improve judicial systems.
Education is at the centerpiece of reforms aimed at making democracy work for all the people of the Americas. The Summit Action Plan adopted at Santiago in 1998 seeks to ensure by the year 2010 primary education for 100% of children and access to quality secondary education for at least 75% of young people.
We are also seeking to strengthen norms for defense establishments that are supportive of democracy, transparency, respect for human rights and civilian control in defense matters. Through continued engagement with regional armed forces, facilitated by our own modest military activities and presence in the region, we are helping to increase civilian expertise in defense affairs and reinforce the positive trend in civilian control.
In Haiti we continue to support the consolidation of democratic institutions, respect for human rights and economic growth by a Haitian government capable of managing its own security. In cooperation with the United Nations and Organization of American States, we are working with Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council to pave the way for free, fair, and transparent local, legislative and presidential elections in 2000. We are committed to working with our partners in the region and in the international community to meet the challenges of institutionalizing Haiti’s economic and political development, and building an effective and fair police force and judicial system.
The United States remains committed to promoting a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba and forestalling a mass exodus that would endanger the lives of migrants and the security of our borders. While maintaining pressure on the regime to make political and economic reforms, we continue to encourage the emergence of a civil society to assist the transition to democracy when the change comes. As the Cuban people feel greater incentive to take charge of their own future, they are more likely to stay at home and build the informal and formal structures that will make transition easier. Meanwhile, we remain firmly committed to bilateral migration accords that ensure migration in safe, legal and orderly channels.
The Middle East, North Africa, Southwest and South Asia
Developments in these regions will profoundly affect America’s future. They will determine whether a just and lasting peace can be established between Israel and the Arab countries; whether nations of the region will fully join our fight against terrorism and drug trafficking; whether they will agree to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction; whether the oil and gas fields of the Caucasus and Central Asia become reliable energy sources; and whether respect for basic human rights and democracy can be institutionalized.
The United States has enduring interests in pursuing a just, lasting and comprehensive Middle East peace, ensuring the security and well-being of Israel, helping our Arab friends provide for their security, and maintaining the free flow of oil. Our strategy reflects those interests and the unique characteristics of the region as we work to strengthen peace and stability.