MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, we are going to begin our (inaudible) Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas. At the main table, we have the President of the Republic Mr. Oscar Arias, the Foreign Minister of Costa Rica Bruno Stagno, the Secretary of State of the United States Madam Hillary Clinton, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Dominican Republic Clara Quinones, the Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica Marco Vinicio Ruiz. We are going to begin with words from the foreign minister of Costa Rica.
FOREIGN MINISTER STAGNO: (Via interpreter) Good day to everyone. Thank you for joining us. As you know, we have just wrapped up this third ministerial meeting of Pathways to Prosperity. I would like to briefly address this initiative. It was created about 18 months ago. We held a first meeting at the head of state level in September of 2008, which was the formal launching of the initiative. And in the last 18 months, we have held three ministerial meetings.
The initiative today covers 14 countries of this hemisphere and there are three observer nations – Belize, Brazil, and Trinidad and Tobago. The countries that are part of this initiative today represent about 65 percent of the population of the hemisphere and 73 percent of its territory. But even more importantly, we represent more than 80 percent of the Western Hemisphere’s GDP and a significant amount of world GDP, which is 29 percent.
But we have a very specific feature here which is that we have and north-and-south axis that goes from Canada to Chile, which means that this initiative is 14,600 kilometers long in area, which presents opportunities and challenges. One of the challenges, specifically one which today was a subject at the ministerial meeting, which was also part of the conversation that was held among the technical experts, has to do with taking concrete measures to reduce costs and the logistical delays by virtue of these great distances that do separate us but at the same time unite us.
Moreover, we are adopting a ministerial declaration which will be handed out to all of you that covers all of the different work within this initiative, all of our intentions, all of our aims that we want to carry out as we move forward with Pathways to Prosperity, especially in light of the next ministerial which will take place in the Dominican Republic next year.
So I’m going to wrap up with that. I want to thank all of you for your presence and, above all, I want to thank you for all of the convergence that was achieved here between the participating countries – among the participating countries which recognize the challenges and opportunities that free trade stands for, the opportunities for the development of our people.
MODERATOR: Next, the floor goes to the Secretary of State of the United States, Madam Hillary Clinton.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much for hosting this conference and I appreciate the foreign minister’s management of the meeting and it’s a great honor to be here with President Arias. Costa Rica is a champion for the values and goals that we all share, from its global leadership on environmental sustainability to its efforts to promote regional unity, development, and stability. And the success of President Arias in mediating seemingly intractable conflicts is a testament to his moral leadership and to Costa Rica’s credibility. We saw this once again with his work during the crisis in Honduras.
So it is a pleasure to be back here in Costa Rica for this very important ministerial. And it is also very exciting to have our Dominican friends with us, and I’m looking forward to the meeting in the Dominican Republic next year. I want to thank President Fernandez and the Dominican people for the generosity and solidarity that you have shown to the people of Haiti. It has been extraordinarily important.
These recent hemisphere challenges – the coup in Honduras, the earthquake in Haiti, the terrible earthquake now in Chile – have tested our capacity and our will to respond collectively. And I believe we are meeting that challenge together. We have to extend this spirit of cooperation, however, beyond times of crisis to help us meet the common challenges we face every day. President Arias summarized those in his closing remarks. We are on the pathway to prosperity; we want to arrive. We want to be able to see the benefits of the hard work of the people in the Americas.
And that’s what this program is all about. It is a forum for nations committed to democracy and open markets to share best practices and smart ideas for promoting social and financial inclusion and widening the circle of inclusive prosperity. I think we have a lot to learn from each other. The Americas are one of the world’s most dynamic and diverse regions. And we can do more to move toward greater regional integration.
Talent is present everywhere; you can visit any town or school from Alaska to Patagonia, and you’ll see it. But unfortunately, opportunity is far from universal. Too many people in too many places never have the chance to realize their dreams of starting a business, pursuing an education, or lifting themselves and their families out of poverty. So the United States will be focusing on several Pathways initiatives to support entrepreneurs and create new opportunities across the Americas.
But I want to echo one of the important comments by President Arias. There have to be changes in government policies in order to promote these solutions, whether it is creating the opportunity for collateral for secured transactions in Honduras or raising the tax rates on the wealthy in other countries to fund public services like schools, we’re not just talking about micro-interventions. We’re talking about assisting individuals and businesses, but promoting broader change in order to realize the objectives we share.
So we will promote the establishment of small business development centers to help new enterprises get off the ground and start creating jobs. We will increase our support and mentoring for women entrepreneurs who are often overlooked or excluded. We will work with our partners to modernize laws governing lending to help small and medium size businesses, and to develop more efficient and effective customs clearance processes which are crucial to attracting foreign investment and facilitating commerce. And we will encourage our Pathways partners to consider tariff relief for goods they import from Haiti, because Haitians need a functioning economy, not just international aid, to build a sustainable future.
How will we tell whether we’re being successful? Only when we see the changes in people’s lives across our hemisphere. Conferences, initiatives, partnerships of all kinds are only useful if they produce results and if we embrace a spirit of shared responsibility. So today, in my remarks, I urged all Pathways partners to establish concrete plans of action, measure the progress of our programs, meet our obligations, and share the results. And hopefully, when we meet again in the Dominican Republic, we will have progress to celebrate, and even more good ideas to share.
So again, let me thank our host and applaud the hard work and commitment of all of the countries represented here today.
MODERATOR: Next, we are going to end this session with a speech from Clara Quinones, the foreign minister of the Dominican Republic.
DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER QUINONES: (Via interpreter) Good day, everyone. President Arias, my utmost respect and my congratulations for you in putting together this conference. I think we have made progress on the initiatives – the result of this initiative. I’ve had the honor of sharing the session with Madam Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, who has been very enthusiastic in her work with this initiative. We’re very glad to have her here for the push that she provides.
The Dominican Republic is honored to be the host of the next ministerial meeting of this Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas initiative next year. President Fernandez as well as the entire Dominican people will take on this responsibility with great enthusiasm and you should all be very sure that we are going to take an active role in all of the different working groups so that the Dominican Republic can do a proper assessment, as the Secretary of State has said, of the progress that has been achieved, and the most essential part of this initiative also, which is that free trade and the benefits of globalization should have benefits for the poorest, for the people who are most at risk.
I want to make use of this opportunity to mention the tragic situation that our brothers in Chile are going through in this catastrophe. I want to express our solidarity with the people and Government of Chile, and I want to reiterate our commitment toward Haiti, our neighbor that, as we know, has been destroyed – its capital, Port-au-Prince, on the last 12th of January. We have a commitment toward Haiti. President Fernandez is working very hard with the international community, with President Preval, with the donors, so as to – so that on the 2nd of June the Dominican Republic will host a world summit on Haiti, Haiti’s reconstruction. It’s a great opportunity for all of us to contribute with a long and medium-term program to rebuild Haiti. We are talking about the great need of resources (inaudible) the international community, all of our friends, help this country so that they can recover from that catastrophe which affected all of the Haitian people. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Next we are going to have three questions, previously agreed to, with the national and international media. To begin with, we have a question from (inaudible), a journalist from La Nacion, here in Costa Rica.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, thank you very much. Unfortunately, given the growth of trade, the drug trafficking cartels have also grown. Madam Clinton, it will be important to know if with your visit here to President Arias, will there be more cooperation, will there be greater agreements on combating drug trafficking specifically?
And if I may, I would also like to hear your comment in – the new first female president of this country’s coming to power. And I was wondering if that has a special significance that there’s a new female president on the continent. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to your second question, I am delighted that Costa Rica has elected a woman president, a highly qualified, serious woman. I look forward to meeting with her this afternoon. It won’t surprise you to hear that I think two of the best words in any language are “Madam President,” so I am very excited for this choice that Costa Rica made.
With respect to the scourge of drug trafficking, we’re well aware that the Central American countries are bearing a greater burden in combating these criminal cartels today than they were in the past. As you know, we have worked very closely with Colombia, with Mexico, and with the Central American countries. We believe strongly that governments have to be strengthened. They have to be given the tools and resources necessary to combat these criminal elements, to build strong, non-corrupt police forces. And we will continue to do what we can in partnership with the governments throughout the region.
We also have stated very clearly that we understand the United States bears part of the responsibility for the challenges that governments are confronting. The demand in the American market is centered in the United States and we are trying to do more to lower that demand. So we are trying to do our part both in our own country and in partnership with countries like Costa Rica and others. But we must restore law and order. Citizen security is one of our highest priorities, and we will work together to achieve that.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) The next question comes from the international media based here in Costa Rica. This is from Nancy Delemos.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, Madam Hillary. I would like to go into a little more detail about drug trafficking. Is there a specific proposal from the U.S. Government as far as the repeated requests from Central America to increase resources under the Merida plan? In fact, President Arias has emphatically, on several occasions, has insisted that the countries here in the region need more resources and that the Merida plan has centered mainly on Mexico. So that’s related to (inaudible) question.
Another question is, toward the end of your Latin American tour, how do you feel about the balance after a visit to Brazil, where you didn’t get President President Lula’s support for the Iran sanctions? And yesterday, the foreign minister was very critical about your visit to the region. He said that you were dividing the countries of the – of Central America. So what is your take on the relationship between the U.S. and Central America in light of those events?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, with respect to Merida, we are increasing the aid that will be coming to Central America because we recognize that you need more resources. And there are many different aspects of what we want to do in partnership with the countries of Central America. Maritime security, obviously, is one. Increasing the capacity of police, judiciary, resources. Working to weed out corruption – I was impressed with the recent announcements coming out of Guatemala with arrests of high-ranking officials for corruption. So there’s a lot to be done. And we are increasing our efforts, including our financial efforts.
With respect to the region, I don’t know what you’re referring to. We had excellent discussions in Brazil with both the foreign minister and the president. We share the same goal. The goal is to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. There is no difference in the goals between the United States and Brazil. There is a perceived difference in the best way to achieve that goal. Brazil believes that through continuing outreach and negotiations, they might be able to persuade Iran to come to the negotiating table. The United States has been attempting that. President Obama personally has reached out to the Iranians for more than a year. And unfortunately, we have seen no evidence that this approach is a fruitful one. Therefore, we are working with a number of countries in the United Nations to present new sanctions to the Security Council. And we are working to achieve broad-based support for that, and we expect to be able to do so.
And finally, on Central America, again, I don’t know what you’re referring to, but the United States believes strongly in democracy and we are supporting the return of constitutional democracy to Honduras. The election which was held was by all observers found to be free, fair, and legitimate. President Lobo has moved quickly to implement many of the recommendations that first came from President Arias’s work on the San Jose accords and then were incorporated into the Tegucigalpa Accord. He has a unity government. He has a truth commission that will be stood up. He expedited the safe departure of former President Zelaya. And we think that Honduras has taken important and necessary steps that deserve the recognition and the normalization of relations.
I have just sent a letter to the Congress of the United States notifying them that we will be restoring aid to Honduras. Other countries in the region say that they want to wait a while. I don’t know what they’re waiting for, but that’s their right, to wait. We believe that President Lobo and his administration have taken the steps necessary to restore democracy. And we share the condemnation of the coup that occurred, but we think it’s time to move forward and ensure that such disruptions of democracy do not and cannot happen in the future.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Lastly, this is a question for the traveling press corps with the Secretary of State. The question comes from Daniel Dombey of the Financial Times.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, forgive me, if I can, I’d like to ask a question about Washington, to bring you back to Washington for a moment.
Before entering the Administration, both you and President Obama supported the campaign to label the Ottoman era massacres of Armenians as genocide. In recent days, both you and he have made direct appeals to Howard Berman, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, against a House resolution, a draft House resolution that would make precisely such a labeling of those events. Despite that, he is supporting the resolution and the committee is poised to vote. Could you explain why you and the President have reversed course on this issue and what’s at stake in this vote? Thanks very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think circumstances have changed in very significant ways. When President Obama took office and I became Secretary of State, we determined that the process undertaken by the Swiss in bringing the Turkey – Turkish and Armenian governments together was a very worthy one that we intended to support, and we have done so. I was personally in Zurich at the time that the protocols for the normalization of relationship between the two countries were signed. We think that is the appropriate way to manage the problems that have stood in the way of normalization between the two countries.
Within the protocols, there was an agreed-upon approach to establishing a historical commission to look at events in the past. I do not think it is for any other country to determine how two countries resolve matters between them, to the extent that actions that the United States might take could disrupt this process. Therefore, both President Obama and I have made clear, both last year and again this year, that we do not believe any action by the Congress is appropriate, and we oppose it.
Now, the committee that you referred to has voted out such a resolution, I think three times in the past. They’re likely to vote it out again. But we do not believe that the full Congress will or should act upon that resolution, and we have made that clear to all the parties involved.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. This is the end of our press conference. Good afternoon.