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Jacobson On The Americas' Shared Challenges

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center, participates in a meeting of the Pacific Alliance with Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, left, Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno Charme, second from right, and Mexican Undersecretary Vanessa Rubio.

“The Administration [of President Barack Obama] is committed to sustained, productive engagement in the Americas.”

“The Administration [of President Barack Obama] is committed to sustained, productive engagement in the Americas,” said Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta S. Jacobson. Speaking at the Center for Hemispheric Policy in Miami on December 13, Assistant Secretary Jacobson highlighted how the Obama administration is forging innovative new partnerships to deliver on that commitment.

Jacobson On The Americas' Shared Challenges
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During 2013, U.S. engagement with the Americas particularly focused on the creation of jobs, competitiveness, and expanding the breadth of our economic and commercial ties. These themes dominated President Obama’s visit to Mexico and Central America and were echoed in subsequent meetings with members of the Pacific Alliance, including Chile, Colombia, and Peru. Vice President Joe Biden also deepened his engagement in the region, including chairing the High Level Economic Dialogue with Mexico and bringing a delegation of top U.S. officials to the Panama Canal to discuss infrastructure investments.

“All of this activity underscores the Administration’s emphasis on strong, productive relations with Latin America, and so many countries in the hemisphere are reciprocating,” said Assistant Secretary Jacobson. “This is a very exciting time for those of us who have dedicated our careers to advancing these relationships. Governments and citizens throughout the hemisphere have made important and difficult choices to get their countries to where they are today, and there's a strong determination to keep moving forward.”

However, the Assistant Secretary also stressed that important challenges remain, including improving education, combating illicit narcotics and organized criminal networks, and strengthening democracy and the rule of law.

In particular, improving education is a critical component of social and economic development, and yet, on average, Latin America spends about one-fifth as much per pupil as the typical OECD country. The momentous gains of the last decade can only be sustained if we devote attention to improving education. This is an area where the whole hemisphere can improve, and where we can all learn together.

That was the motivation for President Obama’s decision to launch 100,000 Strong in the Americas to promote increased international student exchanges between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean. The goal is to reach 100,000 exchanges annually in each direction. These exchanges will prepare students for the 21st century global workforce, foster business ties, and strengthen bilateral relations.

“This hemisphere, said Assistant Secretary Jacobson, “can be the global platform for promoting the values that we share throughout the world. We have an opportunity to set a high standard for fair and open economic competition, well beyond this region.”