Engagement with our Latin America, Caribbean, and Canadian neighbors remains a top priority as the United States develops its 21st Century foreign policy strategy.
Speaking at the 42nd Washington Conference of the Council of the Americas in mid-May, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said that “harnessing the power of proximity between the United States and our neighbors in the Americas is among the most strategically significant tasks in the new century opening up before us: “During this moment of tectonic political shifts elsewhere in the world, from a rising Asia-Pacific to a restive Middle East, one of the starting points for effective U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century is to focus on the enormous opportunity in our own neighborhood. Today, our engagement with Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean requires an extra measure of strategic focus, precisely because this region is so important to our shared future.”
And just as the United States benefits from partnering with neighbors in the Americas, the reverse is also true, because “proximity runs in both directions.”
Countries in the Americas have moved steadily toward democratization, social inclusion, and human rights, making tremendous strides toward improving the daily lives of their people. Brazil, today the world’s sixth largest economy, has instituted policies and programs that have enabled tens of millions of Brazilians to enter the middle class. Peru has experienced unprecedented economic expansion accompanied by a dramatic drop in poverty rates. Similarly, Chile has reduced its poverty rate from 40 percent in 1990 to less than 15 percent today.
In fact, today, almost half the population in Latin America and the Caribbean is firmly in the middle class.
It is true that important challenges remain, said Deputy Secretary Burns. But “if we can deepen consensus in our hemisphere behind open, free, transparent, and fair economic competition, coupled with a commitment to democracy and social inclusion – then that will not only benefit our citizens here at home, but also will continue to show the world that free societies and open markets remain the best prescription for human progress and development.”