The President's March 2011 trip to the region highlighted the significance of the Western Hemisphere to our economic competitiveness and a host of global strategic interests; indeed the prosperity and security of the United States are tied to the democratic success and economic development of the countries of the Americas. The United States pursues dynamic partnerships with its Latin American neighbors to achieve five policy priorities that, in turn, advance critical U.S. national security interests: 1) increased citizen security and effective democratic institutions and governance; 2) social equity and adequate social services for the peoples of the Americas; 3) expanded economic opportunity; 4) global climate change adaptation and mitigation and a secure and clean energy future; and 5) public opinion that supports U.S. policies in the Hemisphere. While the United States engages throughout the region, the three countries below serve to highlight the complementary work and success that the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have achieved in advancing U.S. foreign policy priorities in the Western Hemisphere.
Mexico: U.S. policy priorities in Mexico are broad and multifaceted, and include a robust security partnership, economic competitiveness, trade, energy, environment, climate change, human rights, and cultural and educational ties. A key component of our global competitiveness is creating a border that will facilitate secure and efficient flows of goods and people, and reduce the costs of doing business between our two countries. This includes consulting with states and local governments on both sides of the border; and exploring means to review and modernize border management and infrastructure with our Mexican partners. A deepening partnership with a strong Mexico improves the welfare and security of U.S. communities, our nation's economic well-being, and our ability to manage transnational organized crime.
Over the past year, we achieved major successes in the United States-Mexico security partnership, highlighted by the Merida Initiative and its increases in seizures of narcotics and arrests of high profile traffickers. This United States-Mexico partnership is a whole-of-government, multi-dimensional approach, which focuses on crime prevention, justice sector reforms, anticorruption efforts, law enforcement effectiveness, and programs targeting at-risk youth. For example, our assistance enhanced the computer architecture linking over 120 law enforcement and public safety databases into a powerful crime fighting tool.
Mexico is the United States' second largest trading partner in the hemisphere and we took steps in areas like regulatory cooperation to enhance integration even further. We supported Mexico's own efforts to make needed policy reforms that contributed to its improved performance in international competitiveness rankings and helped to combat poverty. Mexico also took over a lead role within the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA), announced by President Obama at the 2009 Summit of the Americas to advance energy efficiency and conservation through policy, regulation and technology deployment.
Colombia: Consolidated progress on the security and political fronts in Colombia are opening major new opportunities in our bilateral relationship. Congress last year passed the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, which will open the door to a more dynamic commercial relationship. Colombia is exporting its security expertise, becoming a leading provider of counternarcotics and security training programs in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. It has also taken a leadership role within ECPA, and will host the next Pathways to Prosperity Ministerial.
The guiding structure of the U.S. Government's coordinated interagency effort, the Colombia Strategic Development Initiative, builds on the lessons-learned from Plan Colombia and supports the Government of Colombia's "National Consolidation Plan." In a sequenced and coordinated manner, the Department of State, USAID, and the Department of Defense continue to support Colombia's efforts to expand the state's presence to improve security and services in areas where poverty, violence, illicit crop cultivation and narcotics trafficking have historically converged.
In FY 2011, U.S. Government assistance also supported the Colombian Government's transformational efforts to compensate hundreds of thousands of victims, most of them women, provide for historic land restitution, reform the civil service system, and reorganize the government to create new ministries and agencies in the areas of labor, justice, environment, consolidation, and victims' assistance. Our assistance programs assisted the development of more democratic and representative political parties, helped create the space for expanded political participation of women and Afro-Colombians, and helped guaranteed more transparent elections.
El Salvador: One of only four countries worldwide selected to participate in President Obama's Partnership for Growth initiative, El Salvador in 2011 signed a five-year Joint Country Action Plan (JCAP) to work together with the United States and mobilize the resources of both governments to address the most serious constraints to economic growth and development in El Salvador: citizen insecurity and low productivity in the tradable goods sector. The JCAP outlines the prioritized joint activities to unlock these binding constraints.
El Salvador is a strong partner in Pathways to Prosperity, the United States' strategic regional partnership to promote inclusive economic growth in the hemisphere. Through Pathways, the Salvadoran Government has an ambitious program to expand to 15 small business development centers by the end of 2012, which will develop the capacities of SMEs operating in El Salvador. A Pathways-sponsored regional Treasury Advisor is working with the Salvadoran Central Bank to promote greater financial inclusion. To facilitate trade, El Salvador plans to host a Pathways workshop on customs modernization in early 2012. By providing greater opportunities in the growing Salvadoran economy, the United States is helping to develop a safe, stable, and prosperous El Salvador that will benefit the people of El Salvador and create new markets for American businesses.