Leaders of the nations in the Western Hemisphere met for a 2-day summit in mid-April amid a renewed spirit of cooperation in the region. They discussed a broad new agenda of actions on the economy, clean energy, public security and reducing poverty, one in which the United States will be an equal partner that works with and listens to its neighbors.
"We showed that there are no senior or junior partners in the Americas," President Barack Obama said. "We're simply partners, committed to advancing a common agenda and overcoming common challenges."
Such a commitment is important at a time when the ability to work together could prove critical in addressing the current economic downturn, the most serious in almost 70 years. In Latin America, the crisis threatens to reverse the significant economic and social gains made in the past several years.
Toward this end, President Obama announced creation of a new micro-finance growth fund. Some $100 million will be made available for loans to small businesses facing a severe credit squeeze because of the financial crisis. A majority of the jobs in the hemisphere are in small companies and businesses, and the new fund will help buoy these concerns and their workers in the downturn.
Unlike other international conferences, the Summit of the Americas did not conclude with a master plan for the region. It was not intended as a One-Size-Fits-All conference, but rather was a forum for identifying and focusing attention on the major issues facing the hemisphere. Leaders will now return to their countries to work with each other sharing ideas and plans to put the conference's words into deeds.
"As neighbors, we have a responsibility to each other and to our citizens. And by working together, we can take important steps forward to advance prosperity, security, and liberty," President Obama said.