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U.S. Official Urges Greater Economic Integration in the Americas

United States of AmericaSept. 21 2005

Press Release - U.S. Department of State

Within the Western Hemisphere, liberalized trading systems have provided substantial benefits to the countries that embraced them, and greater benefits almost certainly will follow with the elimination of remaining trade barriers, says U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez.

In his September 20 remarks at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce conference on Latin America and the Caribbean, Gutierrez extolled the advantages of economic integration while also praising countries throughout the Americas for assisting victims of Hurricane Katrina, which struck the United States' Gulf Coast region of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama at the end of August.

"We are grateful for the outpouring of compassion from our friends in the Western Hemisphere," said Gutierrez. "Hurricane Katrina dramatically shows how integrated our nations and our economies are. New Orleans and other Gulf ports are key gateways to the global economy."

In fact, "Hurricane Katrina underscores the importance of providing the highest common level of protection from man-made or natural threats," he added. And because they recognize their mutual dependence, countries such as Canada, Mexico and the United States already are "working together economically and to improve our respective security," said Gutierrez.


The commerce secretary pointed to the economic growth engendered by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has yielded impressive results for Mexico, Canada and the United States since its passage in 1993. During the period from 1993 to 2004, Mexico's economy has expanded by 36 percent, Canada has experienced growth of 46 percent, and the U.S. economy has grown by 44 percent, Gutierrez said.

The free-trade agreement between the United States and Chile is another example of this pattern, according to Gutierrez. The U.S.-Chile pact has "been good for the United States; we've regained our position as Chile's number-one supplier of goods and services," he said. "It's also been good for Chile; U.S. imports from Chile are also up strongly."

Gutierrez cited the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) initiative recently implemented by Mexico, Canada and the United States as "another example of our heightened level of economic and security coordination." This sort of partnership "is necessary for regions to be fully competitive within the global economy," he said.

In view of heightened global competition, the nations of the Western Hemisphere aggressively must pursue opportunities for growth, Gutierrez said. He urged hemispheric governments to help establish the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, which would eliminate trade barriers throughout the region.

Gutierrez praised the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (known as CAFTA, or CAFTA-DR) as "an enormous step forward in the process" of greater regional integration. He also announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce is organizing a business development mission to Central America, with the participation of several U.S. companies.

Countries that pay attention to global trends and adapt accordingly, will lay the foundation for long-term prosperity, he said. "We've got to move beyond the inward-looking mentality that opposes greater cooperation and ignores where our competitors will be in 10 or 15 years," said Gutierrez. "Integration can help us grow more efficient, more secure, and more competitive when measured against our global competitors."