The leaders of the U.S., Canada, and more than thirty Latin American countries are moving toward concluding a pan-American free trade agreement next year. The Free Trade Area of the Americas will have a combined gross domestic product of more than twelve-trillion dollars and a market of over three-quarters of a billion people. The goal is to promote economic integration throughout the Western hemisphere by removing barriers to investment and trade.
As President George W. Bush told delegates to the Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, Mexico, many countries already know the value of free trade. Mexico signed the North American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. and Canada in 1992. And since 1993, Mexican exports to the U.S. have tripled. Mr. Bush said that over the long term, trade is a sure path to prosperity:
“The openness of our market is the key driver of growth in the region and a testament to the United States' belief in the mutual benefits of trade. Last year, about eighty-three percent of Latin America's exports to the United States, roughly one-hundred-seventy-six billion dollars’ worth of goods, entered my country duty-free. My country is committed to free and fair trade for this hemisphere.”
Summit delegates also reaffirmed that democracy and the rule of law are the essential foundations of prosperity and progress. “Democracy,” said President Bush, “is the only legitimate form of government in this hemisphere. The peoples of the Americas have an obligation to promote it and defend it”:
“Our unity and support of democratic institutions, constitutional processes, and basic liberties gives hope and strength to those struggling to preserve their God-given rights, whether in Venezuela, or Haiti, or Bolivia."
“And through our democratic example,” said President Bush, “we must continue to stand with the brave people of Cuba, who for nearly half a century have endured the tyrannies and repression. Dictatorship has no place in the Americas.”