"We will seek to expand our prosperity by expanding our trade," Bush said
at the White House as he departed earlier in the day.
"Progress in our hemisphere requires a renewed commitment to creating a
free trade area of the Americas," Bush said. "Open trade in our hemisphere
will open new markets for our farmers and ranchers, workers and service
providers, and high-tech entrepreneurs. It will fuel the engines of economic
growth that create new jobs and new income."
Bush upon arrival met with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Later,
he was scheduled to meet with Latin American leaders in groups according to
His first session is slated for officials from Andean nations such as Peru,
Ecuador and Colombia, where the United States has pledged $1.3 billion to
help fight the narcotics trade. Then he meets with heads of state
from Caribbean nations such as Jamaica and Haiti ahead of meetings with
leaders from Nicaragua, Guatemala and other Central American states. After
the meetings, the delegations all gather for a welcoming dinner Friday
Today and most of Sunday, the president is to attend meetings
similar to the sessions on Friday before taking part in a news conference
late Sunday afternoon. Bush's last meeting of the weekend is scheduled to
include Chretien and Mexico's President Vicente Fox.
Bush hopes to use the summit as a launch pad for his efforts to obtain
fast-track trade promotion authority from Congress, negotiating latitude
likely to be crucial in making progress toward creating a free-trade zone
throughout the Americas by 2005.
Trade promotion authority would allow Bush to negotiate trade deals
without fear of congressional amendments, which lawmakers sometimes add when
voting to approve the pacts. Congress would be forced to approve or deny any
trade pact exactly as the White House negotiated the deal if Bush had
fast-track negotiating authority.
Every White House since the Ford administration enjoyed fast track until
lawmakers, under heavy pressure from labor unions, stripped former President Bill Clinton of the authority in the wake of U.S. job losses attributed to North
American Free Trade Agreement, which went into effect in 1992.
The plan for free trade among every country in the hemisphere except
communist Cuba expands NAFTA beyond Canada,
Mexico and the United States.
"We already know from the North American Free Trade Agreement that free
trade works," Bush said. "Since 1994 total trade among Canada, Mexico and
the United States has more than doubled. NAFTA has created more choices at
lower prices for consumers in all three of our nations. And it has created
good jobs for our workers. Now is the time to extend these benefits of free
trade throughout the entire hemisphere."
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said the expanded trade, if
implemented, would make the Americas the largest free-trade zone in the
world, covering about 800 million people.
"Trade and investment in the hemisphere is expected to exceed that with
Europe by the end of this decade," Zoellick said. "U.S. shipments to Latin
America, not including Mexico, which has bloomed even much more, increased
by about 140 percent over the course of the past decade, compared with about
100 percent with the rest of the world."
But the initiative faces opposition from a many political factions,
ranging from organized labor to human rights activists. Organizations
against the proposal have gathered by the thousands to stage demonstrations
at the summit.
The memory of riotous streets in Seattle during World Trade Organization
talks in 1999 has led to heightened security in Quebec.
About 6,000 Canadian police officers Friday patrolled a massive security
fence walling off the city center. Many businesses boarded their
storefronts in case this weekend's meetings spark the same sort of violent
clashes seen in Seattle and other international forums in recent years.
Meanwhile, U.S. trade negotiators have a roughly 250-page draft of what
they hope will be the blueprint of the final pan-American trade deal, and
they plan to make it available to the public in an unprecedented move at the
end of the summit. White House officials said the move was a direct answer
to Seattle, where the explosive 1999 demonstrations revolved largely around
calls for more transparency in the World Trade Organization and other
international bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary
Despite three days of intensive meetings at the highest levels, White
House officials said they did not expect to make any deals, trade or
otherwise, that would amount to anything more substantive than dialogue or
the joint declaration signed at the end of summit.
"I think it will really advance the cause of getting these
leaders to know each other better," said national security adviser
Condoleezza Rice. "It will advance the cause of the kind of little impetus
to new ideas and to old ideas that perhaps need a little impetus that only
summits can give. And I would expect there would be a lot of activity after
the summit, but ... no specific agreements are expected at this summit."
Copyright 2001 by United Press International.
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