On behalf of the Department of State and the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, I am delighted to join you all today for the 51st Washington Conference of the Americas.
Our continued collaboration with the Council on the Washington Conference throughout the years is built on shared values. The Council’s goals align so closely with our own. This year’s theme, “Democratic, Prosperous, and Secure: Restoring a Partnership for Sustainable Growth,” mirrors our own aspirations for our own hemisphere.
We want to work together with others across the region to build a better, more inclusive, secure, prosperous, and democratic hemisphere. We are working with our allies, partners, and multilateral institutions to fight against corruption and impunity and to reinforce our enduring commitment to strengthening regional democracy and security.
President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Secretary Blinken have put the Americas at the forefront of the Administration’s agenda with an extraordinary schedule of engagements that reaffirms our relationships with our hemispheric partners.
The participation of Vice President Harris, Secretary Blinken, Secretary Mayorkas, Secretary Raimondo, Special Envoy Kerry, and Trade Representative Tai today reflects the Administration’s steadfast commitment to the Americas at the highest levels.
As our senior leaders outline our policies and priorities today, I encourage the Council’s member companies to consider the vital role you play in forging productive partnerships with the Americas.
In Central America and southern Mexico, addressing regional migration and its root causes is a top foreign policy priority. We are developing a comprehensive plan to address it. Central to the success of our strategy will be growing economic prosperity. This will require more investment, not just domestically, but internationally. Your input and commitment are essential to expanding trade ties and catalyzing U.S. private investment in Central America and throughout the Americas.
We know that many countries in the Western Hemisphere face longstanding challenges of economic inequality, corruption, and weak democratic institutions, all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic and render the region more vulnerable to unfair trade and investment practices by countries like China. We stand with our partners in the hemisphere who reject coercive economic practices and insist that we all must play by fair, transparent rules and international norms.
To meet this challenge, we work with our allies and partners to advance our positive vision, which includes– shared values of citizen participation, transparency, respect for the rule of law, entrepreneurship, diversity, and inclusion.
As we focus on the Americas today, we must be mindful that the Western Hemisphere is reeling from COVID-19. Latin America and the Caribbean account for just eight percent of the world’s population but have suffered nearly 29 percent of all confirmed COVID-19 deaths. The IMF estimates the region’s economy contracted by 7 percent in 2020, the most severe among all the world’s regions. Women and marginalized communities have been especially hard hit.
Helping the region recover from the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic will be critical to fulfilling our shared vision for this hemisphere. U.S. companies are leading the world to a safer future with extraordinary advances in vaccine technology – achieved at historically unprecedented speed and scale. We are working with global partners on manufacturing and supplies to ensure there will be enough vaccine for everyone, everywhere, and we have allocated more than $153 million in supplemental funding to help our regional partners respond to COVID-19.
As we rebuild our economies, we must redouble our efforts to promote inclusive economic growth, fight corruption, and bolster democratic institutions.
But we cannot achieve this vision without each one of you – your teams, your partners, and the relationships you build across the hemisphere. Working together, we strengthen local capacity and deliver high-quality investments that are sustainable over the long term. We invest in innovation, the environment, and the young people who will be tomorrow’s leaders. The year ahead is a critically important one for us to embrace with all the energy we can to set a path for a positive agenda.
Thank you, Council Chairman Gluski, Council President Segal, Council Vice President Farnsworth, and all of today’s conference sponsors for your efforts to put together a fantastic event today. We look forward to a productive day of conversations starting with Vice President Harris that we hope will set the stage for continued and new partnerships in the Americas.