The United States is grateful for the productive relationship we have had with El Salvador during President Saca’s time in office, and we are looking forward to similarly strong cooperation and friendship with the government of President-elect Funes.
In El Salvador and throughout the region, we are focused not on old battles but on new partnerships that improve lives, advance democratic principles, and promote the common good – and we seek to work in a spirit of mutual respect with those who share our goal to make the Americas more peaceful and more prosperous.
President Obama has emphasized that it's not important whether ideas come from one party or another, so long as they move us in the right direction. This meeting builds on the work of the previous U.S. administration, but the President and I are also committed to re-launching Pathways to Prosperity, and expanding its work to spread the benefits of economic recovery, growth, and open markets to the most vulnerable and marginalized citizens of our region.
To achieve the shared prosperity we seek, we must integrate our commitment to democracy and open markets with an equal commitment to social inclusion.
Rather than defining economic progress simply by profit margins and GDP, our yardstick must be the quality of human lives, whether families have enough food on the table; whether young people have access to schooling from early childhood through university; whether workers earn decent wages and have safe conditions at their jobs; whether mothers and fathers have access to medical care for themselves and their children so that children dying before adulthood is a rarity, not an accepted fact; and whether every person who works hard and takes responsibility has the promise of a brighter future.
The global financial crisis has reinforced how closely our economies are linked – if there was any doubt before, there should be none now. We know that commerce between our nations is and will be a crucial part of our economic recovery. And that trade should be an integral part of our national development strategies. Achieving the type of broad-based prosperity that citizens of the Americas deserve and demand will require us to harness the talents of all our citizens.
Pathways to Prosperity can and will help spread the benefits of economic engagement and trade to women, rural farmers and small businesses, Afro-descendents, indigenous communities, and others too often left on the sidelines of progress.
To succeed, we must:
The 14 Pathways countries represent 34 percent of the world’s GDP – we know how to get things done. Our work within this partnership should focus on achieving tangible results. We all need to be in what I call the solutions business.
We already have examples of cooperation on trade and development producing real progress for our citizens. In Honduras, the Food for Progress program found new markets for the potatoes grown by 1,400 small farmers.
As a result, the farmers’ sales doubled, and they increased their average annual income from less than $800 to $2,100. In Peru, the Micro and Small Enterprise Facilitation Program has helped more than 80 municipalities implement new regulations for business creation. They’ve cut business registration time by 80% and reduced costs by more than half. In Chile, collaborative work to satisfy trade and sanitary regulations allowed small farmers to take advantage of the season difference between the northern and southern hemispheres, and secure new markets for strawberries and other summer crops in the U.S. and Canada. We’ve also seen successful efforts to protect labor rights. And our newest trade initiatives, like Peru’s Free Trade Agreement with the United States, have been designed to encourage good environmental stewardship.
The farmers, small businesses, and workers that benefit from these programs know the difference between rhetoric and results. We need to build on these successes, and ensure that all citizens of our hemisphere can share in the benefits of economic engagement and social equity.
For Pathways, this will mean expanding beyond our current focus and our current membership. We should work to promote educational exchanges and language training programs to harness the power of underprivileged youth and lay the foundation for regional cooperation among future generations. We should provide technical assistance to rural businesses and others who lack easy access to global markets. I hope we will supply women entrepreneurs with mentors, training, and other tools for success, as the United States is planning to do through its Pathways Envoys program. We can expand the availability of microcredit loans.
And Pathways should be open to working with new partners including other nations and sub-regional banks that share our commitment to open markets and greater social inclusion. I want to note the presence of the observer countries – Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago – that are here today. Going forward, I hope you and other countries from our hemisphere will join us in this initiative as full members.
The Americas are becoming more connected and more dynamic. As this trend continues, our region will need to provide greater leadership on a broad array of global issues. Pathways is one example of the kind of multilateral partnership that can help address the complex challenges of the 21st century.
Today, in El Salvador, let us look back and acknowledge the progress we have made in building democracy and peace throughout our region. But let us also embark together down a new path defined by shared responsibilities, shared opportunities, and a commitment improve the life of every citizen in the Americas. We are part of the same family, this continent is our common home, and we will inhabit a common future. Let us do all we can to harness the untapped human potential that covers this vast hemisphere.