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Feature 011011 USDOS-Valenzuela

Monday, January 10, 2011

 

Official Touts Positive U.S.-Latin America Relations

 

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.

 

   Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela discussed U.S.–Latin American relations at the Brookings Institution on January 6

 

The United States believes it has been successful in shifting the balance in the U.S.–Latin American relationship in a positive and constructive direction and the approach is achieving results, says Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela.

 

During remarks on January 6, Valenzuela said U.S. priorities are based on the premise that the United States has a critical interest in contributing to a stable, prosperous and democratic hemisphere capable of playing a vital role in the international system.

 

“Achieving that objective has required an important shift in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy,” Valenzuela said in prepared remarks at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based public policy research center.

 

“The United States must be a more effective and determined partner in helping countries throughout the Americas achieve their own chosen paths as determined by their own people,” he said.

 

Valenzuela, who is the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said two powerful, converging trends in Latin America account for the dramatic changes taking place. The first is the consolidation of successful market democracies making big gains in meeting their peoples’ needs.

 

The second trend is the growing global integration of Latin America. The effect of these trends is fundamentally reordering the U.S. interaction with each nation in Latin America, he said.

 

The great challenges previously facing the region of inequality, the impunity of political power, lack of rights, ineffective institutions, and lack of opportunity are receding, Valenzuela said. Now hemispheric nations are realizing their stake in new global challenges such as food security, climate change, cross-border crime and vital economic competitiveness.

 

President Obama has focused U.S. efforts on four overarching priorities critical to people in every society, Valenzuela said. The four include promoting social and economic opportunity for everyone; securing a clean-energy future; ensuring public safety and security; and building effective democratic governments.

 

The United States seeks these priorities while strengthening multilateral and regional institutions such as the Organization of American States, he said.

 

Coupled with those objectives, Valenzuela said, is a period of economic and political health across the Western Hemisphere very different from the distant past. For example, economic growth in the region is projected to exceed 5 percent in 2011. What helped that projection is that the region avoided the worst effects of the most recent economic crisis.

 

In 2009 merchandise trade between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean reached $524 billion, and more than 40 percent of the region’s exports flowed to the United States. That made the United States the region’s single largest export destination, and it is the largest source of foreign direct investment in the region.

 

Too, Valenzuela said, the Western Hemisphere, including Canada, absorbs 42 percent of U.S. exports. He added that half of U.S. energy imports come from the Western Hemisphere.

 

  MexiData.info note: For a transcript of the remarks by U.S. Department of State Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela (as prepared for delivery), link to "U.S.-Latin American Relations: A Look Ahead"

 

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Merle David Kellerhals Jr. is an America.gov staff writer.  America.gov, Jan. 6, 2011, Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State

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