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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

XVI Inter-American Conference Of Mayors And Local Authorities

Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs 
Miami, Florida
June 7, 2010


Good Afternoon. It is a pleasure to be here to participate in the 16th Annual Inter-American Conference of Mayors and Local Authorities. As a Representative of the United States and on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, I would like to thank the Mayor and Commissioner of Miami Dade County, Dr. Allan Rosenbaum, the President of FIU’s Institute for Public Management and Community Service, Cristina Rodriguez-Acosta, Deputy Director of the Institute, Mayor Dario Giustozzi, Secretary General Fernando Fernandez, Mayor Venancio Diaz, and all other mayors, elected officials, partners, and guests for all of the hard work you do day in and day out working to secure economic stability and to create more sustainable communities throughout our hemisphere.

This is an excellent platform for exchange, learning, and strategic debate regarding cities throughout the Western Hemisphere. With today’s conference theme “Local Governments after the Crisis: Lessons Learned and New Opportunities,” we have the opportunity to tackle together the common and urgent challenges of economic recovery, sustainable urban development, financial and social inclusion, crime prevention, and greening our economy.

Secretary Hillary Clinton, as our leading U.S. diplomat, has made international engagement concerning these issues a priority in all of our work. Moreover, our local communities and their leaders throughout the world are grappling with the same challenge: how to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth that makes a difference in people’s lives. So, today I bring you a special greeting from the Secretary.

As Secretary Clinton has made clear, the time has come to take a bold and imaginative look, not just at the substance of our foreign policy, but at how we conduct our foreign policy. We must now make the transition to 21st Century Statecraft, engaging all the elements of our national power – and leveraging all forms of our strength. We must now engage you, our sub-national leaders, so that we can learn from your extraordinary wealth of innovation, talent, resources, and knowledge.

Under Secretary Clinton, the Department of State has broadened and changed the way we conduct business. We have now opened our doors to a new era of global engagements, and are working with new partners to collaborate and innovate the way we engage globally. Thus, the Department of State seeks to build partnerships that will allow mayors and local officials to exchange ideas, because we know that it is cities that are the engines of revitalization and they are at the core of a bigger solution to our global challenges.

For over 30 years, particularly as a Senator representing New York, Secretary Clinton has voiced concerns over many issues. Now, as Secretary of State, she is responsible for U.S. foreign policy and all of its global challenges. Secretary Clinton truly understands the importance of working closely with state and local officials to successfully address these global challenges, such as sustainable growth. From experience, she understands that implementing solutions occurs largely on the state, city and local levels.

To serve this important purpose, the Secretary created the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of State. We have begun to:
  • Work directly with state and local officials both in the United States and with their sub-national counterparts abroad; and
  • Build and enhance global relationships between state and local officials so they can collaborate on international issues such as urbanization, city planning, citizen security, global health, trade, investment and economic development, energy, and climate change; all of which require effective intergovernmental collaboration.

Our cities and local communities have a key role to play, so I’d like to spend my time today highlighting what the U.S. Department of State is doing in the Western Hemisphere, and to share ways in which we can work together in partnership to engage sub-national governments to address common challenges for our shared future.

Today, U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico, estimated at $735.2 billion in 2009, is the largest free trade area in the world; it exceeds U.S. trade with China, Japan, Germany and the UK combined. Our total trade with the Western Hemisphere increased 22% from January 2009 to January 2010, and despite the global financial crisis, we currently have a trade balance of about $16 billion dollars. Furthermore, the U.S. has signed reciprocal free trade agreements (FTAs) with 11 Latin American countries and implemented nine of them. The Latin American and Caribbean Region is a vital area for the U.S. for trade reasons, but also for cultural and social reasons.

Not only is trade throughout the Western Hemisphere important, but also are the people who live in the United States who are affected by this. The 2005 Census reported an estimated 41.3 million Latinos lived in the U.S. as of July 2004, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic minority. Hispanics constitute 14 percent of the total population. That number is estimated to go up, to 102.6 million by 2050; according to projections Hispanics will constitute 24 percent of the total population. Therefore, it is in our best interest nationally to be good neighbors to our counterparts in Latin America.

Because of this, and many more reasons, I wanted to highlight five major policy areas in which the U.S. Department of State is working within the region:

First, Pathways for Prosperity, launched at the December 2008 Foreign and Trade Ministerial held in Panama, recognizes that while trade spurs economic growth for our countries, the gains from trade have not been equitably shared and the promise of economic and social opportunity remains elusive for too many people in this Hemisphere.

Pathways partner countries are committed to deepening cooperation to:
  • Expand access to markets and financial services for small businesses, farmers, and rural communities;
  • Facilitate regional trade and integration; and
  • Promote regional development and competitiveness across the region.

Participation is opened to countries that are committed to democracy and open markets as a way to promote inclusive growth, prosperity, and social justice. Current Pathways countries include Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, El Salvador, Uruguay, Canada and the United States, many of which have state and local representation here today.

Second, we understand that Citizen Security is an important topic and one that influences most of your municipalities and cities. In order to have successful economies, we must make our streets safer. The Carsi and Merida initiatives are the U.S. response to the security crisis facing the region.

The Merida Initiative is an unprecedented partnership, of $1.324 billion in assistance to Mexico since FY 2008, between the United States and Mexico to fight organized crime and associated violence while respecting human rights and the rule of law. It is laying the groundwork for sustained common cause, and has built confidence that is transforming the potential of our bilateral relationship.

Carsi, or the Central American Regional Security Initiative, includes $165 million to break the power, violence, and impunity of the region’s drug, gang and criminal organizations. It is expected to strengthen justice systems so these countries, for which many of you are residences, can advance the rule of law and human rights, resist corruption, and deter resurgence of organized crime.

Both the Merida Initiative and Carsi have enabled greater cooperation between law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and judges as they share best practices and expand bilateral cooperation in tracking criminals, drugs, arms, and money.

Third, poverty can be correlated to the type of energy we use. As a result, President Obama invited countries in the region to become a part of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago in April, 2009. This flexible network initiative seeks to find alternative resources for our energy consumption, in addition to lowering our carbon footprint, to help save the environment.

Furthermore, the United States’ energy consumption is directly linked to the region. Nearly 50 percent of U.S. oil imports originate in the region. Canada is our largest foreign energy supplier; Venezuela is among our top 5, and Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador are among our top 15 foreign oil suppliers.

Recognizing this, President Obama laid out five basic pillars for ECPA:
  • Energy efficiency;
  • Renewable energy;
  • Cleaner fossil fuels;
  • Infrastructure; and
  • Energy poverty.

In addition, Secretary Clinton, at the ECPA Ministerial added pillars for:
  • Sustainable Forestry (REDD); and
  • Adaptation.
In the Western Hemisphere, the government of Brazil is currently leading work related to sustainable urban development and planning. On March 25, at the event, “Building with Energy Efficiency and Sustainability” at the World Urban Forum in Rio, in which I personally participated, the United States supported Brazil’s leadership in this effort. Specifically, the Government of Brazil is seeking to build 4 million homes in the next 2 years, which will both emit zero-carbon and provide shelter for the poor. They have shared knowledge and best practices with Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Belize, and El Salvador in an effort to encourage low-income housing development within the region.

Fourth, in order to work with entrepreneurs, the U.S. Government has established the Global Entrepreneurship Program (GEP). The program, developed since President Obama’s visit to Cairo in June 2009 and launched at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship hosted in Washington this past April, works to promote entrepreneurship around the world. Within the Western Hemisphere, Mexico and Peru are prospective GEP countries. The program will catalyze, consult and coordinate partnerships between non-governmental partners, NGOs, universities, women, sub-national leaders, foundations, and companies, as well as leverage existing U.S. government programs. The GEP is an embassy-led program recognizing that local implementation will be different in each country.

Finally, in order to ensure the success of these efforts, the coordination and participation of state and local and sub-national leaders and governments are key to inspiring interest, compliance, and expanded innovation and initiatives. The integration of all of our work and these efforts allows us to bring all of our competencies together to maximize our success. Therefore, the U.S. Department of State is actively seeking and promoting partnerships as a major component of our diplomacy. We recognize that without comprehensive support and cooperation at all levels of government and with their constituents, the goals and objectives of economic prosperity cannot be realized.

As you can see, we are all in this together. Our success in these endeavors is shared. So, too, must our work be more collaborative, our plans more coordinated, and our partnerships more strategic. We will need to include universities and research institutions, the private sector, NGOs and civil society because we already know that policies cannot be executed by our governments alone.

Consequently, by implementing these partnerships and acting in a collective, concerted manner, we can add value to both our individual and shared goals, while also promoting the strategic interests of our nations, and enhancing what we can achieve together. I firmly believe that our shared, global challenges can only be met through a comprehensive response rooted in partnerships, innovation, and collaboration at the sub-national, state and local levels. Let us begin with the ideas that we have been working on and that we share today to help us build a better world that will inspire us to make us even more passionately committed to the challenges before us.

As in 21st century diplomacy, the Department of State will be a connector on a peer-to-peer basis, bringing elected leaders together from across regions to work together on issues of common interest. Because of that common interest, cities are at the core of the financial crisis solution. We will support high level policy and leadership discussions between mayors, governors, and other local governments in the United States with their counterparts abroad for information sharing in these knowledge networks.

We must look beyond our borders and take a shared, global response to meet the shared, global challenges we face. Why? Our world is urbanizing at a rapid rate and our policies must keep pace with these changes.

We are truly all in this together, and we will only succeed in building sustainable economies that are socially and financially inclusive by building mutually beneficial partnerships among our state and local leaders and their sub-national counterparts abroad, in order to create inclusive partnerships for effective, sustainable cities in all parts of the Hemisphere.

Again, thanks to the Institute for Public Management and Community Service for organizing this year’s mayor’s conference. Thanks to everyone for participating and for your work on issues so critical to our common future, as we continue to come together for state and local partnerships in pursuit of the common good. Together in partnership we are making a difference. Today I salute you and your Partnerships with leaders in the Western Hemisphere. I look forward to a Partnership with you and your Associations.

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