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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

A Discussion on the Summit of the Americas

Thomas A. Shannon, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Jeffrey S. Davidow, White House Advisor for the Summit of the Americas
Inter-American Dialogue
Washington, DC
March 12, 2009


PETER HAKIM, PRESIDENT, THE INTER-AMERICAN DIALOGUE: Good morning. I want to welcome you all here today. I particularly want to welcome our two guests who are going to lead the discussion today. The discussion is about the next, the Fifth Summit of the Americas, which is now only five weeks away and time is marching quickly.

I’m delighted to have Tom Shannon here, who, as all of you know, is still Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. It’s sort of the continuity you can believe in. [Laughter]. And we’re all delighted. He’s a very respected and liked figure in inter-American relations. I think in traveling around Latin America people always ask, “Who’s going to replace Tom Shannon,” and then the next question is, “Is there any possibility he might stay on?” I say you’re going to have to ask him that, not me. But a lot of people are hoping. I know that’s probably not the case, Tom, but we’re delighted by all you’ve contributed over the past three years. And if this Summit turns out to be a success, I think it will be in good part due to your excellent work in bringing a consistency to U.S. policy and a sort of coherence to the way the U.S. deals with Latin America.

We also have Jeff Davidow. He’s a former Assistant Secretary. He’s also a former Ambassador to Mexico and a former Ambassador to Venezuela. If I keep talking about the formers we’ll never get back to Tom Shannon.

In any event, Jeff is now back in Washington as a Special Advisor to the White House for the Summit. We’re delighted he could join us today. Thanks very much, Jeff. He’s also the author of a very good book on U.S.-Mexican relations, the Eagle and the Bear, which is worth reading. It’s still in print, I think.

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: I can get you a copy. [Laughter].

MR. HAKIM: We’re sorry that Hector Morales, the OAS Ambassador for the United States, was unable to be with us. Actually Jeff has kindly agreed to fill in for him. But Hector sends his regards.

I’m also pleased that Jose Miguel Insulza has joined us this morning, the OAS Secretary General, for those of you who can’t see him from back there. Welcome. I hope that you learn something today from this group and that we learn something from you as well. Thank you very much for joining us.

Let me say, there are lots of questions that I have about what’s going to happen at the Summit. We all remember the last Summit in Mar del Plata which was generally viewed as not a particularly productive exercise in diplomacy or inter-American relations. There is a concern that the relations among the countries havn’t changed very much since then. There is a concern that this Summit may also not be as productive.

I myself am much more optimistic. I think there have been changes. I think there have been important changes. And I think there is a promise of a more productive Summit. The question that I have is what expectations, particularly from Jeff and Tom, what expectations the U.S. particularly has from this Summit, what it is that the U.S. is going to bring to the Summit, and then what kind of building on the Summit are we likely to see.

Let me start with you, Tom, if I can.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: Thank you very much, Peter. It’s a real pleasure to be here and especially to be up here with Jeff Davidow, such a respected figure in the Americas and someone who is really I think lending a very important hand at an important moment as we prepare for the Summit. I’m also very happy to see the Secretary General here. I know he’s been traveling in the region and has been talking with a lot of the governments about the Summit. I’m sure he’ll have some very interesting things to say afterwards.

I wanted to start by just kind of setting up the context for the Summit right now and then allow Jeff to talk a bit about the themes that we’ll be taking into the Summit.

But first, I want to thank the government of Trinidad and Tobago for the tremendous work that they’re doing, both logistically and substantively in preparing for this Summit.

As Peter mentioned, this is an important Summit. The Summit of Mar del Plata in many ways was evidence of some of the growing pains that are taking place in the region. I think what we’re facing in Trinidad and Tobago is a crucial moment in the history of summitry and in the broader relationships within the Americas to determine whether or not we can rebuild a forum for dialogue that would really allow us to address some of the most important issues that we face at this particular moment.

So we place great stock in this Summit, we place great stock in the preparations for the Summit. It is too bad that Hector’s not with us right now. He had some family issues that required him to travel back to Texas. But he’s been working very hard within the SIRG [Summit Implementation Review Group] process in negotiating the documents, so we’re engaged I think in a full and opportune manner.

As I noted, from our point of view the results of this Summit, if it’s done right, could really have a lasting impact in the Americas, especially with regard to how the different countries of the Americas relate to each other. And also the ability of our hemisphere to act in some coordinated fashion to face some of the biggest challenges that this hemisphere has faced in quite some time.

As you know, this Summit is really going to be the first opportunity for President Obama to engage with his counterparts in the region. But he’s not the only one who will be new to the Summit. There are a bunch of leaders who will be participating in the Summit process for the first time. From our point of view the kind of experience that those leaders take away from the Summit will really I think have a big impact on the future of the summitry and the degree to which these leaders and these countries think the Summit process is a useful process.

As I mentioned, Trinidad and Tobago has set a broad agenda for this Summit which, as you know, is broadly focused on human prosperity, energy security and environmental sustainability. This is an ample space for the leaders to meet and discuss issues. It was important that the Summit be set up in this way, that it have this kind of agenda. The leaders really can’t be constrained by the agenda. The agenda has to be something that promotes dialogue and allows leaders to discuss issues across the entire range of our relationships.

But it’s evident to everyone that the overarching issue that we are going to face in this Summit is the economic crisis, and the proximity of the London Leaders Meeting, of the G-20, I think is especially important and symbolic because as we look at the series of meetings that will be taking place beginning with the Finance Ministers Meeting and then the Leaders Meeting in London, then the Summit, it’s important to underscore that the Summit of the Americas will be the first regional meeting of leaders to take place after London. One of the things we hope to accomplish with our G-20 partners, with Argentina, Brazil, Canada and Mexico, is to make sure that the message that comes out of the G-20 Leaders Summit resonates in Port of Spain, and really try to build a pathway from London to Port of Spain.

We think the message that’s going to emerge from London and the message that we hope to be able to take to Trinidad and Tobago is that we have to protect the social gains that we have made in this hemisphere over the past decade and ensure that our economic recovery, the economic recovery of all the countries of the hemisphere, does not come at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society.

This means, from our point of view, working with multilateral development banks to ensure that the most vulnerable countries in the region, especially the Central American and the Caribbean countries, have access to the credits and grants and institutional lending that they are going to need to mount their own stimulus packages and to protect their public sector budgets. And it also means that we have to be crafting strategies with the multilateral development banks and the sub-regional development banks to help countries that have used cash transfer programs and investment programs to successfully attack poverty and inequality. It’s absolutely essential for our democracies that we be able to show that when working within international financial institutions we can protect our gains and that our economic recovery is not built on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society.

From our point of view, this is a hemisphere challenge and a hemispheric agenda that will really require the attention and the goodwill of all participants. So when we go to Trinidad and Tobago we will be going with a spirit and purpose of engagement. It is our job to sit down and talk with leaders across that table in a way that produces solutions. And we really hope that the other leaders who come to Trinidad and Tobago will bring the same spirit of engagement.

I’m sure many of you saw the Op-ed that President Lula published in the Financial Times the other day, in which he highlighted the importance of realistic and pragmatic policies, both political, economic and social, and really laid out the measure of successful policies in terms of human beings and in terms of the impact that these policies have on the day to day lives of human beings. And we agree with this. We really think that that Op-ed was an important Op-ed and an important statement going into the G-20 Summit and also looking ahead to the Summit of the Americas. Because President Obama will bring the same message. He’s going to bring a message of an engagement in the hemisphere and a diplomacy in the hemisphere in which the human being is in full view. And although this will be an encounter of leaders, this will really be a point of engagement for peoples and societies. I think it’s important to highlight this.

One of our themes has been the fact that while governments talk there has been a steady integration of economies and integration of societies across the hemisphere driven by technological changes, driven by market changes, driven by our economies and our private investment and the outreach of our civil societies. It is our job as diplomats not only to facilitate the engagement between states and between governments, but also to facilitate the engagement of our societies and our peoples. And I think that while the leaders will be sitting around the table at the plenary session, it will really be our peoples and societies that are engaging.

In this regard, we think this kind of engagement will highlight our commitment as a hemisphere to the core principles of the inter-American system and also underscore the resiliency of our democracies as we show that we can address the kinds of economic crises we face today within a democratic framework and within a framework that recognizes that the differences between countries in the hemisphere right now cannot be used as an excuse to impede the larger progress of the hemisphere, that we need to find a way to overcome those differences using the fundamental approach of the inter-American system which is one of dialogue and which is one of peaceful resolution of dispute, it’s one of mutual respect. This is the attitude that we will take to the Summit, and this is how we will engage in the Summit.

MR. HAKIM: Now I’d like to turn to Jeff Davidow to address more specifically our themes.

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Thank you, Tom, and thank you, Peter. I always enjoy coming in from California and attending these events. I always think of you as Claude Rains in Casablanca – time to round up the usual suspects. [Laughter].

Unfortunately, for those of you who know the movie very well, that casts me in the role of Sydney Greenstreet. [Laughter]. You can Google that. The younger people may not have seen it. [Laughter].

Tom has said so much, I’m not sure there is much I can add. I do want to say a word to the Secretary General. Thank you for being here, and the various Ambassadors who are here as well, and all of you.

As we prepare for the Summit, there are at least two separate but interrelated processes moving ahead at the same time on parallel tracks that will converge. I hope they will not converge this way, but rather this way.

First is the process which is being undertaken by all the nations of the hemisphere within the SIRG process. SIRG process, S-I-R-G, Summit Implementation Review Group, which meets in various places but for the most part at the Organization of American States (OAS). And this group which, as I say, represents all of the countries who will attend the Summit, is putting together a declaration, a document, which represents the consensus of thought in the hemisphere at this time. It is a large, somewhat complicated document. The negotiations on the part of the United States are being handled by Hector Morales, our very capable Ambassador to the OAS.

There are six sections. I don’t intend to get into these but I just thought it would be useful for you to know: Promoting human prosperity; promoting energy security; promoting environmental sustainability; strengthening public security; strengthening democratic governance; and strengthening the Summit process itself and the follow up to it and its implementation.

The process of negotiation and seeking consensus continues. There are something like 100 paragraphs. I think about two-thirds have now been closed and the rest will close over the next few weeks, and probably final consensus will come some place between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. on the morning the Summit begins. [Laughter]. The Secretary General is not pleased with that, but that’s usually what happens. [Laughter].

As Tom has said, that is, let me go back. That is one track and it is proceeding, and this is an important negotiation. It is, however, a negotiation. It is a consensus document. It will in some ways as in all consensus documents, it will round off the rough or the sharp edges, but I think it will give a good picture of where the hemisphere is in its thinking, in its variegated, heterogeneous thinking at this time, by agreeing on those points that can be agreed upon.

At the same time, another process is well underway in Washington, and that is to, quite frankly, prepare the U.S. position at the Summit. In this, we have I think very good guidance from President Obama and indeed various elements of the administration are moving ahead in interpreting that guidance. Some with rather specific initiatives that might be announced at the Summit or around the Summit, and generally on the whole question of the tone.

Let me just say this, and I’m speaking personally here as someone who’s just recently back in Washington and will only be here for a short time, by the way. [Laughter].

As I look at it, I think President Obama has laid out for his administration that we should go to the Summit, and I have three major thoughts on this. One, with a spirit of equality; the other with a spirit of equity; and the third with a sense of responsibility. And I don't mean to give a speech here.

By equality, I mean the way the United States and President Obama will approach his colleagues in other governments. I do believe that he sees this Summit as a real opportunity, his first opportunity in most cases, to meet with the leaders of this hemisphere and to exchange ideas and to listen.

The Summit is so constructed that there will be ample opportunity for this. On the first full day of the Summit, there are three scheduled plenary sessions, each a couple of hours apiece. On the last day of the Summit, the Sunday, there is a retreat that is a leaders only session for two to three hours. Nobody in the room other than the leaders. Thirty-four people. I think that will be a very interesting opportunity.

But it is quite clear that this is an opportunity for the President to go and to present himself, present his ideas, and more importantly, to listen, in what Tom has called the spirit of cooperation, the desire to see what we can do together to meet common challenges.

Secondly, when I talk of equity, by that I mean the fact that I believe the Summit is perhaps going to pay a great deal of attention, I won’t necessarily say more than in the past, but I think it may be more than in the past, to the essential question of this hemisphere, and that question is the continuing and in some cases given the world economic crisis, the continuing scourge of poverty that in this year, 2009, we still see a hemisphere in which a very large percentage of the population -- whether it’s 40 percent, or something a bit above or a bit below, is living in poverty in which perhaps a significant percentage of that 40 percent, maybe 20 percent above or below, is living in abject poverty. This seems to me to be the essential challenge of this hemisphere.

It also serves as the backdrop for much that happens politically, economically, socially in each society. I do believe there will be a focus on these questions of equity at the Summit. How can the benefits, for instance the benefits of trade, be made more widely disbursed.

As Tom has said, there will be a pathway, we hope there will be a pathway from the G-20 Meeting in London to Port of Spain, so that the issues which are the issues of today – and I fear of the next few years – of the economic collapse will also be discussed, and how particularly they can be mitigated.

Then there is this question of responsibility, and President Obama does talk about responsibility greatly when he talks to the American people. In an international context, I think he is referring to the responsibility that we have to future generations. In this regard, I think one of the elements of the Summit that will be quite pronounced, certainly in terms of the U.S. position and I think that of other countries, is the whole green topic, for want of a better word. The interrelationship between the environment and energy, for instance. Issues of climate change. Climate change, as you know is a particularly acute issue to discuss in the Caribbean where those small and vulnerable countries may be actually more vulnerable than others. The President has talked about the creation of an energy partnership of the Americans in which the countries of this hemisphere will come together and look for the best ways to maximize our own energy resources, conserve the energy that we have.

I think it’s important to note that in this regard and in other topics that the United States and President Obama will bring to the Summit, these will be presented in the spirit of cooperation and volunteerism.

I do not expect there are going to be big announces about great new inter-America projects. I do think, however, that for instance as we talk about the energy partnership the United States, and from our conversations, we believe other countries as well will make it clear that there are a series of issues, whether it’s conservation, whether it’s how to deal with the question of coal, whether it’s hydroelectric, whether it’s any number of issues, in which countries will be, governments will be free to join with us and with others to look for common approaches to exchange technology, to exchange best practices. And maybe with Country X, the United States may develop a very significant relationship talking about one topic; and Country Y will focus on another.

This all stems from, it seems to me, this view that we have to deal with every country in the hemisphere as a separate entity. Certainly, we are committed to the concept of an integrated hemisphere, yet at the same time we recognize that each country brings its own history, its own policies, its own intellectual, emotional and political baggage to the table.

So I would say that we can expect to see on the part of the United States a very open approach, one that is searching for cooperation, one that will focus in a fairly large measure on questions of social justice, equity, poverty. One that will take very much into account the green agenda, both in terms of environmental concerns, climate change, global warming, as well as energy concerns. And all of this will be done in the spirit of responsibility and a responsibility that basically is saying, “Let’s look ahead not only to where we are today, let’s try to transcend to these particular problems.” But think of ideas, think of plans, think of orientations that can actually carry us into the next generation.

Let me stop there.

MR. HAKIM: I’m going to ask the Secretary General in one second, but I want to sort of ask our two guests. Tom, you said that, you used the phrase, “Talk to produce solutions,” I think I got that quote right. And the question I have is that you talked about a number of issues. It seemed to me an underlying theme of equity and then some long term issues like environment and energy issues. But there are a number of very concrete, short-term issues that I think the Presidents, the other leaders from Latin America, will want to hear about. The question is not that you’re going to tell us today what President Obama might say, but is there going to be some emphasis or talking about the here and now issues? Immigration, Cuba, trade agreements, drug policy. Is that going to be part of the discussion?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: Again, when you put leaders around the table you never know what they’re going to talk about. But we’re going to go with, as I mentioned, a spirit of engagement and purpose. So we’re prepared to engage on any issue the leaders around the table want to talk about.

But as important as all those issues are, I still think the real immediate issue is the economic crisis and the potential that crisis has for generating political and social crises. And we have to be prepared to address that.

Our citizens have to see the leaders addressing that in a real and pragmatic way, in a way that will produce results in the near term. I think that will be how we are judged.

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: I agree with Tom. I think there is so much to discuss. On some of the issues you mentioned, there are important questions. One must ask, do they make sense to be discussed in the Summit of the Americas, which is a short period of time, a golden moment where leaders can get together and talk in serious fashion about the future, and does it make sense to have the Summit distracted into other issues which are, while very interesting and very topical, really will take away from the Summit as a whole?

One of the goals that we all should have, I think everyone in this room shares this, is the Summit process as a process, as a way of helping in terms of integrated approaches to the problems of the hemisphere is itself a fairly battered process. It has not prospered in recent years. The last Summit, we all know, was not diplomacy’s finest hour. It would seem to me unfortunate if that were to be replicated, and I know there are topical issues that the United States could raise that any country could raise. I think it’s important to go beyond those.

MR. HAKIM: Thanks, Jeff. Jose Miguel, would you like to --

SECRETARY GENERAL INSULZA: Thank you very much. I just arrived in Washington two hours ago.

MR. HAKIM: It’s amazing how quickly you got through Customs. [Laughter].

SECRETARY GENERAL INSULZA: Good thing I’m not arriving at 6:30 in the morning. [Laughter].

After visiting seven countries in South America and others in the region, I think that most of the things that have been said here, the statements are closely [inaudible] of the Summit.

One, the crisis is beginning to become a problem. I will agree to that.

The second one is the fact that most of the leaders expect to meet President Obama, to know what he is going to say about the region. As somebody said here, our two friends here, not expecting the policy, that would be contradictory with what the President has said, that we want to have a policy with you and not a policy for you. So they expect to engage in a very lively dialogue, and I will say something about that.

Then I think it’s important to talk about the agenda. As Jeff said, the issues that are in the original agenda of the Summit, even though the crisis has come to the top of the list, are really important, the problems of security, the problems of global war, et cetera.

Let me just say a couple of things about the [inaudible]. First of the crisis. What you hear a lot around in Latin America is how well we were doing before this happened, and that is something that people have to understand. If there are speeches by the President [inaudible], they all say how much they have accomplished in the past three or four years before saying what we are facing. I will say a few weeks ago you could hear a lot about why our countries are better prepared for this crisis or for others, which is [inaudible]. Well-behaved economies, and lot of [inaudible]. But then the problem is that the crisis is coming and all the leaders know that. I feel that it’s very important that we have some, we not only fall into the line of the G-20 which will be important, but five of the twenty will be present at the Summit, but also some [inaudible] and Tom referred to a couple of them. I think it’s very important.

There are now remarks by the Secretary of the Treasury today that the U.S. is trying to convince other countries to put more money in the multilateral fund and [inaudible] in this case. [Inaudible] maybe in the regional facilities. That will be very important. That will be a concrete result.

I understand that we all want to talk about some other things, but when you’re asked to have a counter-cyclical plan and you don’t have the money to do that, that’s a big problem for several countries in the region. Not for all of them. Some of them at least for the first round if the crisis is not very long, have their own resources to resist. But others are really in need of that. I think the IMF will have to do a good job on that because I’m sure that [inaudible] the IMF, but more [inaudible] the funds of the ADB or for other regional organizations will also be very important. That’s really [inaudible] in terms of the crisis.

First, some general view of how this is going to end. I don’t think we can when it is going to end, but approximate to that. Then a clear, complete proposal for the region that the leaders can go back home and say we have this and this is important.

There’s another thing that’s important for the region. I don’t want to be naïve in this, but I think you have to prepare the plan for the Summit. You have to prepare the plan for that. [Inaudible] President, that would be a problem. Everybody expects to see the President. And they do not expect just to shake hands with him. They expect to have five or ten or fifteen minutes with him. Some of the leaders already will have [inaudible] is coming to town. President Calderon already did. Other Presidents have already been told that they are to be invited to Washington. So it won’t be 34, but it will be closer to 34 than to 10. [Laughter]. That’s a fact. And it will be a big frustration for some to go back home and say I saw the President at the meeting. We shook hands for the photograph. It is important. [Inaudible] and very important. This is the first time [inaudible] leaders in the Americas will be able to see President Obama, this is the first time they will be able to talk to him, and they expect to have some moment [inaudible].

The third, I think it’s also, when you measure the six issues, I tried to remember, I won’t repeat them, but there are two that struck me, some that [inaudible]. One is the issue of security. This is the first time there is a declaration in the Summit dealing with security. Of course, as with the past Summits there should be something about drug trafficking, about [inaudible], security something, but this is the first time that the Summit document addresses the issue of security, and that is very relevant because it is a big issue for the region.

Frankly, if you look at the figures, the difference among countries are enormous. Violence, for example, in the southern cone countries and in the northern countries is completely, the differences are very big, but everybody cares about that. If you ask people in the region what they want to talk about, at this moment it’s employment and crime. Employment is falling and because crime is rising this past year. So I think that’s a really important issue and we shouldn’t neglect that.

We shouldn’t neglect the final issue which is very important to the region, which is democratic governance, democracy. It must be stressed that this is the first Summit in which all the governments have been democratically elected. Of course Mar del Plata was close to that, but there was one government that was provisional, which was the Haitian government. But today, everybody has been elected. Elections, democratic elections, are not an issue any more, but that should be remembered. Don’t just take it for granted. The fact that democratic elections are not an issue is a very relevant fact in itself. And the fact that we still have many governance problems, the development of strong institutions in government, I think those are things that are on the agenda. They shouldn’t be left aside because of the problems of the crisis and others. It should be mentioned.

I also expect a good Summit, and they expect a Summit to go very well. I expect a Summit in which we’ll have good discussions and maybe they will be more lively in the private meeting. Some issues are going to be mentioned. But I think that the Summit is not the best place to deal with it. They show Cuba to be very clear, [inaudible], the reorganization as being mentioned, yes. The Summit is not the OAS Summit. It’s the Summit of the Americas. All the [institutions] should be included as much as possible, but we should try not to force discussions and issues we are not ready to deal with, not ready to be mentioned. One can expect that some of the leaders are not [inaudible], but [inaudible] we should, we need to have a new era of relations, of dialogue in the OAS. We should deal with issues carefully, we should deal with it in a [inaudible] way, and we should deal with them, not try to deal with all of them in a day and a half, but deal with them through a good process in the inter-American system.

Thank you.

MR. HAKIM: Thank you very much.

We have a good period of time for discussion. What I’m going to ask people is to identify themselves, keep themselves to very brief, crisp questions, not long commentaries. We really have an opportunity to hear from two very well informed people about what the Summit is going to be like, what the U.S. is going to do, and I think people want to hear that.

I’m going to take three or four questions at a time, and then go back and let them decide how they want to answer them.

MR. JIMÉNEZ-ORTIZ: Thank you very much. Roberto Jiménez-Ortiz. Thank you both, you have given --

MR. HAKIM: You don’t have to thank anybody. Get to the question. [Laughter].

MR. JIMÉNEZ-ORTIZ: You are very good [inaudible], the U.S. side, what the Summit is all about. But if I can react, is a very lukewarm reaction. Treasury, I can see how Treasury speaks to them. The Latin Americans are going to ask the specific leadership of the United States the reaction of the Treasury I can see now, but the reaction is global issues are regional issues, and the economic crisis [inaudible] is difficult. We are going to [inaudible] through the global issues and nothing on the [inaudible] side. That is not [inaudible]. What [inaudible] with the Latin Americans. The credit markets are going to be very crowded. The U.S. is going to issue a lot of securities. The Latin Americans who don’t have access to credit markets in Washington --

MR. HAKIM: Roberto, Roberto. Don’t tell us about the crisis. What’s your question?

MR. JIMÉNEZ-ORTIZ: My question is, the U.S. is not, Treasury especially is not reacting to the expectations of the Latin Americans. Access to the credit market is going to get very worse and they expect the U.S. to react with strong leadership like the Asians did, to have access to the Latin Americans late in the year, one year from now, access to the free market. What --

MR. HAKIM: Roberto, thank you.

We’re going to take some more questions.

MS. SCHOTT: Thank you. I’m Sonia Schott, with the German News Agency (DPA).

I would like to know if Latin Americans expect changes, what can you say about that? What is Latin America going to say regarding changes in the U.S. and the U.S. policy toward Latin America? Thank you.

MS. MEIMAN: Kelly Meiman, McCarty Associates. I was just curious given the complexity of the economic situation today what sort of a supportive role do you think that either the private sector or civil society can play to the Summit process? Thank you.

MR. HAKIM: One last question.

MR. WIN: Gustavo Win, Voice of America. Do you think as a consequence of the Summit working group to resolve the financial situation with the help of key members and the G-20 [inaudible] Latin America will take place?

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: I’m going to let Tom take the first question.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: My reactions are several.

First, when we talk about a pathway from London to Port of Spain, I think it’s important to understand that in some ways it is a two-way pathway. It’s not just that a global solution is being transported to the region with the expectation that the region will accept or acquiesce in it, because this is really an instance because of the structure of the G-20 in which Latin America through several key countries will have a very important role in shaping the global response. And I think this is an important point to underscore.

As the Americas have globalized, the globalization hasn’t just been the Americas opening to the rest of the world and receiving the rest of the world. It’s also been about how the Americas, and especially Latin American countries, have reached out to the rest of the world and are influencing what is happening in the rest of the world, I think in an important and positive way based on a common commitment to democracy, a common commitment to market economies, a broad commitment to economic integration, and very active participation in international institutions. This is why I think what happens in London and how it links to the Summit is going to be important. Because there will be a connection which vibrates in both directions, and I think this is going to be an opportunity to show that just as the Western Hemisphere, with five of the 20 countries that will be in London, will play a very important role in shaping the global response, that the larger region is capable of recognizing how it has affected that global response and is prepared to take it up and show that this global response can work in democracies that have the kinds of social challenges that the democracies in the Americans have.

In regard to the kinds of credits that will be available to countries throughout the region, this is obviously something we have to focus on now. This is one of the reasons why I highlighted the fact that from our point of view we have to be able to work with the fund, with the multilateral development banks, and with the sub-regionals to ensure that there is cash available. That there is liquidity. That public sector budgets are protected. That is going to be a central challenge of ours.

MR. HAKIM: Jeff, before you, I wanted to also say you can respond to anything from the thoughtful presentation of Jose Miguel Insulza, too. Don’t feel restrained to disagree or agree.

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: I thought it was an excellent presentation.

Let me just make a point about the role of civil society in the business sector, which I think is very important. Today we are all part of the civil society.

The government of Trinidad and Tobago is helping create at least three fora immediately prior to the Summit, in the two days prior to the Summit. One will be relating to youth, one is relating to civil society, and a third to business. These organizations, the organization of these three events is being handled by that government and certain private agencies, and I recommend that you go to the web site of the Summit, if you don’t have the necessary information.

My understanding is that there will be attendees at those three separate meetings. Some of the attendees will remain in Trinidad after the meetings and there will be ways in which they can present their findings and their thoughts to Summit attendees. There are, just so you know, certain logistical problems with hotels and what have you, so I think there will be people who will be able to come to those fora, that will probably have to leave before the Summit begins. Nevertheless, they are valuable opportunities and I think it’s very important that civil society does, in these other groups -- business and youth -- do have an opportunity for their input. That is foreseen. I think we’re still in the early days in terms of planning, however.

MR. HAKIM: I think that’s very important. I’m a civil society person, and I haven’t heard a word about any of this yet. I think that should be accelerated because there’s a lot of other people out here with the meeting a month and a few days away, I think it’s very important that whatever can be done to accelerate that would be helpful.

AMBASSADOR MOREAN-PHILLIP: Thank you, [I am the] Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago. I just wanted to take up the point about civil society. The Joint Summit Working Group coordinated by the OAS and assisted [inaudible] by the countries of the region, which have arranged or organized fora, roundtables, civil society. We had one in El Salvador, we had one in Miami, we had just last week one here in Washington. Where all the players in the different organizations from civil society have come together. And all the findings from their meetings have been related to the Summit, have been incorporated in some instances, some of their recommendations have in fact found their way into the final document, the outcome document that is being negotiated. So civil society has been very active in this process. They’ve been engaged in the process.

I’m just wondering, I wanted to say, Jeff I think you said that perhaps right up to the 17th we will be working on the final paragraphs --

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: I’m sorry I said that.

VOICE: I just want to say that we are going to finish this document by the end of this month -- [Laughter] -- so I want all those Ambassadors here who are taking part in the process to know that by the end of March this document must be completed. [Laughter].

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: I apologize, I really do. [Laughter]. I’m sure you are correct.

If I could say something about civil society, and also about business and youth. While it is absolutely correct that processes have been going on and there has been input, Peter, maybe one of the things that you could take the lead on and I’d be delighted and I’m sure Tom would to participate in any sort of gathering of groups here in Washington and elsewhere on civil society, to get that kind of input and I think perhaps we should make the same appeal to business groups as well.

I think there’s a real effort on the part of the organizers of the Summit to get this kind of information, and we’ve got to find ways to do that.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: There was a question about Latin American countries expecting change. I would have a couple of quick comments on that.

First, as we engage in the Summit of the Americas, we don’t see it as the United States engaging with Latin America, we see it as the Americas engaging with itself. In other words countries meeting and discussing broader issues. Because the Summit is much bigger than the United States and Latin America. It’s also Canada and the Caribbean. So we want to make it clear that as we engage in the Summit process we really see the Americas as a hemisphere, and that we are promoting engagements among all our countries.

But I think Jeff kind of very eloquently laid out in the terms of quality, equity and responsibility the manner in which we choose to engage. And the degree to which that is understood as a change, that’s good. But change is not, again, it’s not from one side to the other. I think all the countries in the region have to understand that the nature of the crisis is such that as I mentioned earlier, we cannot allow some of the differences that exist between us to impede the dialogue that has to happen. And so while we are going with a very specific idea of how we need to engage, it’s our hope that our partners around the table will come with the same change mentality.

MR. HAKIM: Let me just thank you, Madame Ambassador, for all the work you’ve been doing on this, too.

I have four people on this side of the room. The next round we’ll go to this side of the room.

MR. LAFRANCHI: Howard LaFranchi, with Christian Science Monitor.

One of the reasons for an unproductive Summit in Mar del Plata was poor relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, in particular the clash between Presidents Bush and Chavez. I’m wondering if we can get an idea where those relations stand right now and maybe what has been done to sort of avoid that kind of thing this time around.

MR. HAKIM: We’re holding two sessions next week on that. [Laughter].

MR. ATKINSON: David Atkinson, formerly with the IDB, now with Princeton in Latin America.

Specifically, how would each of you define specific short and long term products of this conference by which you could say it was a success?

MR. WATSON: Alec Watson from the [Hilton] Company.

Jeff, you emphasized the importance of responsibility. It seems to me that in the past some of the [inaudible] Summit processes is implementing the decisions arrived at at the Summit. I’m wondering if you folks [inaudible] Secretary General have come up with some other mechanisms for sharing responsibility and accountability in being able to carry out the decisions made at the Summit.

MS. SANCHEZ: Marcela Sanchez, New York Times Syndicate.

Peter, I hope you let me share a secret about you, but I know that you are skeptical about the partnership of energy. You said that recently. And I wonder whether those two men sitting beside you --

MR. HAKIM: Question, question Marcella. [Laughter].

MS. SANCHEZ: I wonder since it is one of the main topics for the Summit, whether you think there really is a potential for a partnership on energy, thinking as a solution to the crisis, the economic crisis. That maybe will convince Peter to be less skeptical about it.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: I’ll start, in regards to Mar del Plata. First, I think it is important to set the record straight. There was no clash between President Bush and President Chavez in Mar del Plata. I was in the room the whole time. I can affirm that.

The issue that divided countries in Mar del Plata was really the future of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, or the importance of a broader hemispheric trading agreement. The split was between those countries that had already committed themselves to free trade agreements or to preferential access agreements with the United States and those countries that had not, for reasons that are related to Doha Round negotiations and the rest.

The effort at Mar del Plata to try to preserve some kind of larger hemispheric understanding of a trading agreement while addressing the real concerns that the MERCOSUR countries in particular had regarding market access, and the degree to which the region as a whole was prepared to move forward on a larger FTAA. That was the real dividing point.

But I think in this moment, what is important to understand is that the economic crisis actually creates an opportunity for us because it has us focused on the social consequences, the development consequences of trade. And one of the things we are trying to do, as Jeff noted, is to ensure that as we engage on economic issues and as we engage on trade issues, we keep the human component, the social component kind of fully in view so that we understand that as we build trading relationships they’re really about job creation, they’re really about economic growth, and also creating economic opportunity and providing people the skills they need and the environment they need to take advantage of that opportunity.

So I think this is something that is going to resonate I think in a very important way in this Summit.

In regard to not only Venezuela but other countries with which we have issues at this point in time, again, we are not alone in this. There are many countries that will be around the table that will have their specific bilateral differences or problems, and I think it is important to highlight here that one of the real pluses of the inter-American system over time has been this idea that in our inter-American system, which is a system based on equality of nations and mutual respect and a firm commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes, the quality of diplomatic dialogue and the ability of countries to maintain full diplomatic representation is very important. This is something we are going to underscore and try to make clear to leaders around the table – that using differences between countries to degrade the quality of diplomatic dialogue is a mistake. It is a fundamental error in the inter-American system. And this is why we are going to promote on our behalf a real effort to ensure that those countries that have used differences to degrade their relationship with us, that we’re prepared to improve them if these countries are prepared to improve them with us.

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: If I could just add to Tom’s last point, which was eloquently put, I am absolutely convinced that President Obama is going to Trinidad with the intention of treating all the Presidents there with the respect that they merit as elected heads of state. And it is my hope that all the other Presidents there will treat each other with that same kind of respect and use the kind of language one would expect in polite company. [Laughter].

In terms of David Atkinson’s question about products, I’m not trying to duck the question but I think we should frankly get away from the issue of what’s happened in some past meetings where progress is measured on the basis of the announcement of great new designs, which as Alec has implicitly pointed out, sometimes don’t come to much because there’s a lack of follow up.

I also think that as Tom has said, we are going not with a policy for the hemisphere, but to help develop a policy with the hemisphere. So while I fully expect that in the course of the discussions, the President will talk about some new initiatives and some initiatives he wants to pursue, I don’t think the President is going to the Summit like Santa Claus with a bag of this gift for this country and this gift for another country. That’s the wrong approach and it’s one that has been discarded.

I think the way we will measure success at this Summit is the degree to which the countries of the hemisphere can come together and recognize just how difficult a position we are all in today and express a sense of shared responsibility for working ourselves out of that. And working together. There are many ways to do this. There’s not one magic bullet.

In that regard, let me talk a bit about energy. It is quite clear that the energy part of the Summit is a very important and fundamental one, recognized by the Summit organizers themselves. It’s one of the three or four major topics, and clearly one that is of great concern to the United States. This must be seen within the same context of environmental issues as well, as a topic that will be discussed.

As I said earlier, I think the United States is going with a sense of partnership, a sense that there are so may moving parts to the energy issue, and that some countries, some governments are more willing or capable or interested in working cooperatively with other countries on parts of that problem or parts of the energy/environmental matrix, and some are more interested than others.

We have, as you all know, established over the past year or so an excellent working relationship with the government of Brazil on the question of biofuels and projects that are being undertaken in Central America, even Africa now. Perhaps that could be expanded. Perhaps there are other topics the United States has with Brazil and some other countries already signed Memorandums of Understanding on energy which could be used, which list topics such as energy conservation, exchange of technical information, and what have you. And these form the basis for even a greater level of partnership.

So I think energy environment, the entire green matrix is going to be something that is going to be an important issue at this conference.

MR. HAKIM: We’ll go to this side of the room, if there are any questions here.

MR. CHAVEZ: Hector Chavez of American University. I have a comment.

MR. HAKIM: Question, question.

MR. CHAVEZ: Well, it’s a question -- I’ll rephrase it. The Secretary General mentioned in Latin America the view is we were doing so well until the crisis hit. I just want to say this is only partly true. Latin America was doing well until prices began to slow down, until demand for the strong exports began to slow down, and they were already hitting the downside of the [inaudible] cycles. Just for the sake of the productivity of the dialogue, I think that should be on the table from the Latin American side. The crisis put the finishing touches, obviously, but it was already coming to [inaudible] of the cycle, the good performance of the Latin American economies in several countries. Thank you.

Ambassador Shirley: Professor Gordon Shirley, Ambassador of Jamaica. Thank you so much. I am very grateful, I think we all are, for hearing your positions. There are two things that have not been mentioned which suggest that maybe there’s an agreement not to speak of them, so maybe I ought not. [Laughter].

One is protectionism has reared its ugly head. I think it’s agreed that what we all teach anyway, that if there had not been protectionism in ’29 and ’30 you wouldn’t have had the Great Depression, and I don’t hear people speaking out, both positively and negatively, against protectionism. Because if you go into a protectionist spiral it will last.

The second thing is that a number of countries, some 40, believe that legislation and other action which are suggesting that off-shore financial institutions are all cartels or are money laundering, tend to be counterproductive. It could cause financial difficulties for large numbers of people who are honest in going about their business.

I wonder if these matters will be somehow addressed.

MR. DAVIS: Shelton Davis, Georgetown University, the Center for Latin American Studies. I used to be in the World Bank. I’ve also been working for the National Museum of the American Indians.

The thing I wanted to say, I thought it was very good that you mentioned that the Summit would focus on social justice, equity, poverty, environmental concerns, energy use, and climate change. The question I wanted to ask is how much would it also focus on cultural diversity in terms of the social justice and equity, in terms of the rights of indigenous peoples and Afro descendents, especially in relation to rural land rights in the various American countries. Also the role of indigenous peoples, rurally indigenous and Afro descendants in the mitigation of climate change through forestry protection and environmentally sustainable development. Finally also the recognition that many of the migrants that we talk about here that are Latinos, there’s a million Mayan Indians that are here from Guatemala and from Southern Mexico that are here. There’s also a lot of [Guaiacums] that are Afro-descendants --

MR. HAKIM: Sandy, Sandy --

Mr. Davis: How much will that be taken into account by the Obama government with indigenous and Afro-descendants as part of it.

MR. HAKIM: I think that’s a good essay, Sandy. You ought to send it to Port of Spain.

One more question.

Mr. Hamilton: O’Neil Hamilton, Henry L. Stimson Center.

A quick question, please, and this in effect is in response to the Secretary General from the OAS’ comment about non-traditional security challenges. What kind of scope will there be for these discussions? Crime and security, of course, being central to this area.

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Let me try to give some answers to some of these issues.

First, I think it’s very important to highlight that when we talk about security and the declaration that is being negotiated and when the United States talks about security, we are talking about not the kind of security issues we would have talked about 20 years ago. We’re talking really about public safety issues and citizen safety issues. There is not a country in the hemisphere that is not one way or another concerned with these public safety issues. The question of policing, the question of strong political institutions, the best practices from one country to another. I do think, and this is a particular concern that has been voiced by many countries in the Caribbean, and I do think this will be an important topic for discussion and for sharing of ideas at the Summit itself.

On a couple of other questions that have been raised, in terms of protectionism, I do think that the Obama administration has made it clear that it stands against protectionism. I do think that the document that was issued about ten days ago did not get a great deal of coverage in the press, but I recommend to you, which is the trade policy statement which was produced by the USTR which outlined in general terms the Obama administration’s approach to trade, is well worth reading and contains a strong rejection of protectionism.

Finally in response to the first comment that was made about how good performances had already started to go down prior to the real economic crack, I think that is a very legitimate point to make. But there is another point which I think we sometimes forget to make but that is quite obvious and may not have, I’m not tying it directly to the Summit. It is my own personal concern. It does seem to me that those countries that are going to be able to withstand this economic crisis in the best form, I mean all countries are going to be hurt quite significantly including this one. But the countries that have actually operated in the most rational and prudent and sensible economic manner over the last five to ten years, which has largely accounted for that increase in GDP and economic development in the hemisphere, and obviously we have to recognize the importance of the increase in sale of raw materials to China and elsewhere. But the great basis for good economic performance was the adoption of rational economic policies and the ability of countries to withstand the crisis that is upon us now is heavily based on that past performance. Those who acted most reasonably are going to be hurt less and we shouldn’t forget that as we look at the panorama.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: I think Jeff hit all these points. I don’t have anything really to add on off-shore financing. We can talk about it if you’d like. But obviously in regard to cultural diversity and rights of indigenous peoples, there has been a real focus in this hemisphere over the past several years in how to ensure that our democracies have the capability of encompassing all of our peoples. Even traditional communities or historically excluded communities or marginalized communities. And there’s been a variety of interesting hemispheric sub-regional and bilateral efforts to build a broader understanding of the real face of this hemisphere which is multicultural, multiethnic and multiracial.

In that regard, I think the Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Discrimination that was developed by the United States and Brazil, I think is an interesting example of what we’re capable of doing by drawing on our common experiences to ensure that all members of our society feel that they not only have a voice in their national destiny but have some control over their individual destiny and the destiny of their communities. And while I don’t know how prominent an issue this will be in the Summit, it’s certainly an issue that I think most of the countries in the region are seized with and will continue to be important, especially within the context of the OAF.

MR. HAKIM: I think we’re really coming to the end of our time. I want to thank Tom, thank Jeff, thank Jose Miguel Insulza and also Madame Ambassador from Trinidad and Tobago. With the Summit in their hands, I think this will be a productive enterprise. And thank you all for joining us this morning.


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