Senior Administration Official On Preview of Pathways to Prosperity Ministerial Meeting
MODERATOR: All right. Thank you, everybody. We have a Senior Administration Official who is going to preview the Secretary’s participation in Pathways to Prosperity, so (inaudible).
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you, [Moderator]. This is the fourth ministerial in the Pathways to Prosperity process that we launched in 2005, (inaudible). But it’s part of a much larger engagement in the hemisphere, and I think that I just want to set the context first.
Pathways to Prosperity began as a grouping of the countries with whom we had free trade agreements, and it’s really based on a premise that has grown into something larger than that, because it’s really all about going beyond free trade and ensuring that the benefits of free trade reach a lot more people than they might otherwise.
One of the most important things about these meetings is ensuring that people who have not gotten the benefits of global economic growth in the Western Hemisphere get those benefits. We’ve seen that growth rates in Latin America and the Caribbean are very high. Macro numbers are great, but there are still lots of populations in the hemisphere that are not part of that growth – women, young people, Afro descendents, indigenous communities who have not been part of that.
So among the messages I think the Secretary wants to convey with her presence at this fourth ministerial is that this is about going beyond free trade agreements on paper and making those commitments real to more people in these countries.
There are 15 countries who are now members of Pathways. Belize will be accepted into the group at the ministerial. And they range from Canada through Colombia and Peru – all of the Central American countries are participants, a few in the Caribbean, plus Colombia, Chile, both Canada and Mexico, Peru. Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago are both observers. So countries are really coming into their own. Sorry, I forgot Uruguay. It goes as far south as Uruguay.
And one of the things that we did over the last year with Pathways was to refocus it on four particular areas that we think can really help. One is helping small businesses, creating the environment for small businesses to grow.
The second is creating a modern workforce, workforce development, which really focuses a lot on education, and you’re going to hear a lot about education in the ministerial and in the private sector meeting that follows it that Under Secretary Sherman will attend.
The third is facilitating trade. Trade is still a part of this; it’s not forgotten.
And the fourth is sustainable business development, which really focuses on environmental policies, ways to make production cleaner and greener.
So these are all part of a larger effort, I think, not just in this hemisphere, but globally, to underscore the importance of the economic-commercial trade side of our diplomatic agenda and the importance that the State Department places on those areas of our diplomacy. The Secretary’s been talking about that more lately. Pathways really fits in perfectly to that framework, which is why the Secretary is there and not perhaps some other member of the cabinet, because it’s an integral part of our diplomacy now.
She’ll obviously be meeting with all of the members of the countries who are there. She’ll be meeting with President Fernandez. She’ll be having conversations about other issues that are taking place in the hemisphere right now. I think, frankly, this meeting, this gathering both public and private sector leaders in a couple of days, both Pathways and the Americas Competitiveness Forum, are really also the start of preparations in the run-up of the six months we have till the next Summit of the Americas, which is in Cartagena, Colombia in April 2012.
And so the Secretary really kicks that off of the engagement of the Administration as a whole in the Americas (inaudible). She’ll also be talking with a lot of the folks when she’s down there about trends that are taking place in the hemisphere. As I mentioned, very strong growth numbers, but a lot of concerns from governments that social inclusion needs to be more a part of their agenda. You saw that in the election of President Humala in Peru. We’ve seen that in a number of other countries around the hemisphere. Obviously, there are some really successful models already in the hemisphere, whether it’s Brazil or Uruguay or other countries – Mexico, Chile. And so this really pulls folks together to talk about what has worked and where they can replicate those models elsewhere in the hemisphere.
MODERATOR: Okay. With that, we have time for a few questions. And as you know, the Secretary will have a press conference later on, so go ahead.
QUESTION: I was wondering if you think that the Venezuelan or the Bolivian or Latin model can compete right now. It has been – I mean, following the very low growth rates that they have been witnessing in the past, have they sort of – they have less appeal right now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think we really just have to look at the statistics to see. I know I just talked about how statistics don’t tell the whole story, and I think that’s important. But if you look at the numbers, the numbers in the countries that are pursuing market opening, global strategies with social inclusion are numbers that are just phenomenal. Brazil’s growth rate is widely known by everybody, the number – the millions of people who have been pulled out of poverty.
But look at places like Paraguay, which had something like 12 percent growth last year. And then you look at some of the other models and they’re not growing, and the inflation rates are high and there are shortages in stores. I think the facts speak for themselves. The successful models are the ones that are more open to the global economy.
QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about what message the Secretary may give, if she’s giving one, on the FTAs of Colombia and Panama and how that fits into what’s going on?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: One of the things that I should have mentioned is a huge sort of bound in buoyancy to this meeting is given by the moving ahead of the three FTAs – Colombia, Panama, and Korea – on October 3rd, obviously. It’s something that we’ve been working for for quite a while and President Obama has committed to. And having them actually vote in Congress, which is what everyone was waiting for, I think gives us a huge boost that the United States is fulfilling its commitment, as we promised, and we’re able to continue moving ahead on an economic and commercial agenda that we had started at the beginning of the Administration and that is a expansion of those efforts.
It’s incredibly important, obviously, for jobs at home that those free trade agreements get passed, but it’s also very important as a symbol to the hemisphere, both its public and private sector leaders, that we want to continue to move ahead with open, fair trading systems that allow for continued growth, continued investment and exports from the United States to this hemisphere. We see this hemisphere as being just critical to U.S. competitiveness, whether that’s on issues of jobs and exports and the President’s National Export Initiative, or whether it’s things like energy security, where this hemisphere has a huge amount of opportunity.
QUESTION: The last administration, when they launched this Pathway, they were very interested in a free trade agreement with a whole range of (inaudible), as you know. Are you – now with these FTAs that are going to be approved, are you trying to re-launch or are you thinking that that would be in a good timing on the short term to restart the (inaudible) of a free trade (inaudible)?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think in a sense, the model of restarting something like the FTAA, the overall free trade agreement, we’ve really sort of moved beyond that. The countries in the hemisphere have lots of arrangements of their own internally. They have arrangements with other parts of the world. The numbers of free trade agreements that bind countries in this hemisphere to Europe, to Asia, to us, are really staggering. So in some ways, the building blocks are already beyond that question.
But I do think that there are more things that we can do with Latin American and Caribbean partners that get us closer towards, de facto, the most open regime we can possibly have. And that includes, obviously, what the President did when he was in Brazil earlier this year and the Secretary has done in launching the global partnership with Brazil, which really does move us ahead on having an economic and trade and commercial dialogue with Brazil, unlike one we’ve been able to have before. So in some ways, I think we’ve moved beyond the question of whether we need the big agreement.
QUESTION: Since we’re going to the island, can I ask you about Haiti real quick? One, I guess you must be pleased to have seen a prime minister appointed, as I guess someone who’s worked well with other Clintons. But any comment on that point?
And secondly, there’s been some plans recently to reinstitute the army in Haiti, and I know there’s a number of concerns. Where is this Administration on that idea?
Senior Administration Official: Yeah. Let me start with the prime minister’s approval in the senate, which obviously we’re delighted about, because not only does that get the prime minister approved, obviously something that was stopped for quite a number of months, but it allows the Martelly government to move ahead with a full program of government and all the rest of the ministers, and that’s critically important. So we’re delighted with that.
On the issue of a new military, I would just say that the way forward is really to focus on the Haitian National Police and their being able to get stronger and larger and more capable at doing their jobs. And that’s what we’re going to continue to focus on.
QUESTION: So you’re not too keen on an army, per se, after its history?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that’s something that, obviously, President Martelly has to make his decision. We’ll continue to have conversations with him. But right now, our focus is on the Haitian National Police as the structure and the force that needs to be strengthened so that all of the good work of the international community and MINUSTAH can be maintained domestically.
MODERATOR: All right. Thank you very much.