As Prepared

Good afternoon.  Thank you to Dr. Barbosa of PAHO [Pan American Health Organization] and Minister Rando for your welcome and for your continued support towards the success of the Economic and Health Dialogue of the Americas [EHA].

In June 2022, the United States, under the leadership of Secretary of State Blinken, joined partners from Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Panama to build a vision for a regional dialogue that would ensure that we, the Western Hemisphere countries, are better prepared to face the next pandemic.

I’m proud to congratulate each and every partner that has been integral to make that vision a reality. We must keep the momentum going, because – as the COVID-19 crisis made clear – the cost of failure will be paid in the lives and livelihoods of our people.

Despite accounting for only 8.2 percent of the world’s population, Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for 25.5 percent of worldwide COVID-19 deaths, making it one of the region’s most adversely affected by the global pandemic.  But the impacts of COVID-19 went beyond illness and health.  Even now, we continue to feel the aftershocks of those COVID-caused systemic and macroeconomic disruptions.

The region faced an economic contraction of 6.7 percent of GDP [gross domestic product] in 2020 – almost twice the average global decline of 3.5 percent. An estimated 39 million jobs were lost, and more than 20 million people fell into poverty.  We must bear these numbers in mind, as we must never forget the lives and livelihoods of the people they represent.  The work we do through this dialogue can help ensure history does not repeat itself.

The Economic and Health Dialogue of the Americas brings health, finance, foreign affairs, economic, social development, and trade ministries together from countries across the Western Hemisphere that aim to address shared multisectoral challenges such as health financing and supply chains.  This dialogue is a regional forum for governments to have frank conversations on their experiences COVID-19 pandemic and coordinate a strategic recovery.

A regional perspective is necessary to contextualizing the implementation of broad global health goals and sharing both information and benefits gained from bilateral investments.

We held our first high-level meeting in Panama City in March 2023, and since have conducted several technical meetings.  I want to thank the governments of Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, the Bahamas, and Argentina for their leadership to lead these technical meetings.

Today’s meeting has two goals:  the first is to broaden technical participation of this economic and health dialogue.  We ask that guests today reflect on how the dialogue can benefit your country and how your country, or specific ministry, can, in turn, enrich the overall EHA dialogue.

The second is to identify deliverables for the upcoming annual meeting in March 2024 in the Dominican Republic.  As I mentioned, through the support of co-lead countries and multilateral partners, several technical meetings have been held to date, and, as a region, we are ready to begin working towards deliverables and commitments.

We have laid incredible groundwork and now must transition into concrete outcomes for our workstreams.  I cannot emphasize this enough, and I urge you to keep this in mind during the presentations.

We will first hear from Paraguay and Uruguay as co-leads on the first workstream:  smart spending for health and health resource analysis.  This will be followed by our second workstream on prioritization of health systems transformation using self-assessment tools from PAHO and the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development], which is co-led by Costa Rica and the Bahamas.  then, we will hear from Brazil as lead of the third workstream:  income protection during pandemics.  And finally, the fourth workstream targets foundations of public health supply chains to increase regional resiliency, which is co-led by Argentina and Peru.

I’m excited to see what we will accomplish ahead of our next the high-level meeting in March 2024.  Thank you again for your attention, for your dedication, and for your shared commitment towards a more resilient future.

U.S. Department of State

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