The Americas: Four Ways to Better Cooperation
The opportunity to establish an enduring framework of political and economic cooperation in the Americas is today within reach. But the United States and other governments must grasp this opportunity soon - or it will fade.Skip to next paragraph
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* First, it is imperative that the Clinton administration make an all-out effort to secure fast-track authority this year so that the US can credibly engage in hemispheric free-trade discussions. Nothing would signal the US commitment to regional economic integration more than an energetic White House campaign for fast track and its prompt approval by Congress.
* Second, the US should move quickly to enhance trading arrangements with the Caribbean basin countries and begin to negotiate reciprocal free-trade agreements with them.
* Third, it is time that the US join with other nations of the Americas to develop a common, multilateral strategy to confront illicit narcotics and the related problems of money laundering, illegal flows of arms and precursor chemicals, and besieged democratic institutions. This will require that the US abandon its unilateral drug certification process.
* Fourth, US policy should recognize that it is self-defeating for Washington to act in isolation in its Cuban policy. The declared US objective in Cuba - peaceful change to democratic rule - is shared by every government in this hemisphere. Other governments are prepared to work with the US to promote democracy and human rights in Cuba, but Washington must be willing to consult and to moderate its uncompromising approach.
Past progress uneven
In the 2-1/2 years since the Summit of the Americas, held in Miami in December 1994, progress toward building a more cooperative and integrated hemisphere has been uneven. To be sure, governments and private organizations in the hemisphere have collaborated on many issues.
Multilateral efforts prevented a military takeover in Paraguay and restored peace between Peru and Ecuador. Monitors from the Organization of American States (OAS) helped to assure the fairness of presidential elections in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.
Subregional cooperation has been even more vigorous. The presidents of Central America have initiated regular, twice-yearly meetings. The four Mercosur nations - Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay - have strengthened their economic group and incorporated Chile and Bolivia as associate members.
Countries also have been working toward the goals of the Miami summit. The hemisphere's trade ministers have been meeting regularly. Regional working groups have been established on all key trade issues, and they have made important technical advances. Ministers of defense have assembled twice to explore ways to improve inter-American collaboration on security matters.
Yet confidence in the future of hemispheric cooperation has diminished. Progress toward hemisphere-wide free trade has been slower than expected. Despite the election in 1994 of a highly regarded new secretary-general, Csar Gaviria, the OAS has not gained significantly in stature or credibility. Most nations oppose expanding its financing or mandate, or making necessary changes in its structure and operations.
US policy is partly to blame for the slowdown. Without fast-track authority Washington has been unable to: (1) fulfill its pledge to bring Chile into NAFTA, or (2) initiate free-trade negotiations with other Latin American or Caribbean governments. It also has failed to establish an interim trade arrangement for the nations of the Caribbean and Central America to help stem the diversion of their trade and investment toward Mexico.
US policy on two other fronts - Cuba and illicit drugs - raised concerns about Washington's commitment to cooperation in hemispheric relations. On both issues, Washington unilaterally designed and implemented new coercive policies, despite the opposition of every other country of the Americas and many beyond.