Remarks by President Bush at Inauguration Ceremony of the Special Summit of the Americas
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, I thank you for your wonderful hospitality. First Lady, thank you, as well. Please thank the people of this gracious city for hosting such a distinguished group of leaders, spouses, citizens of the world.
Two years ago in this city, world leaders formed the Monterrey Consensus. We pledged to work for government that is responsive to the basic needs of every human being, and for policies that promote opportunity for all. At this year’s summit, we are embracing the challenge of implementing that Consensus to bring all the hemisphere’s people into an expanding circle of development.
To advance these goals, my nation revolutionized the way we provide aid, and we substantially increased our aid to developing countries. Under our new Compact For Development, U.S. assistance is linked to good governance, investment in people, and economic freedom. Development assistance should light a path to reform and economic growth, rather than perpetuate the need for further aid.
The nations of this hemisphere must identify concrete steps to implement the noble ideas of the Monterrey Consensus. We must work to provide quality education and quality health care for all our citizens, especially for those suffering from HIV/AIDS. We must also chart a clear course toward a vibrant free market that will help lift people out of poverty and create a healthy middle class. We must increase the credit available to small businesses that generate the majority of jobs in all our economies, and reduce the time that it takes to start a business. We must strengthen property rights so that land can be leveraged as a source of capital to start businesses or hire new workers. And we must lower the cost of sending money home to the families of hardworking men and women who are earning a living abroad.
Over the long-term, trade is the most certain path to lasting prosperity. The openness of our market is the key driver of growth in the region and a testament to the United States’ belief in the mutual benefits of trade. Last year, about 83 percent of Latin America’s exports to the United States, roughly $176 billion worth of goods, entered my country duty-free. My country is committed to free and fair trade for this hemisphere through the free trade area of the Americas and through the growing number of bilateral free trade agreements we have completed and are negotiating. Our NAFTA partners have been vital free trade allies for 10 years now.
Our free trade agreement with Chile entered into force on the first of this year. We’re completing a free trade agreement with our Central American partners. This week we’ll launch negotiations with the Dominican Republic, and soon we’ll begin negotiations with Panama and some of our Andean friends. Once completed, these free trade agreements will cover more than two-thirds of the GDP of America’s neighbors.
The essential foundations of prosperity and progress remain democracy and the rule of law. All nations must prevail in the fight against corruption. We must deny safe haven to corrupt officials and create a culture of transparency in the Americas. Today I signed a proclamation denying corrupt officials entry into my country. I urge other countries to take similar actions.
At past summits, we resolved that democracy is the only legitimate form of government in this hemisphere, and that the peoples of the Americas have an obligation to promote it and defend it. Those governments in our hemisphere that have responded by supporting democracy can be proud.
Our unity and support of democratic institutions, constitutional processes and basic liberties gives hope and strength to those struggling to preserve their God-given rights, whether in Venezuela, or Haiti, or Bolivia.
And through our democratic example, we must continue to stand with the brave people of Cuba, who for nearly half a century have endured the tyrannies and repression. Dictatorship has no place in the Americas. We must all work for a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. Together we will succeed, because the spirit of liberty still thrives, even in the darkest corners of Castro’s prisons.
We have great opportunities to work together to improve the quality of life for all the people of this hemisphere. To realize our common vision we must set goals that are specific and measurable. In doing so, we will affirm our determination to succeed and to give hope to millions.
Together we will implement the Monterrey Consensus, lift all our nations, and show the world that free societies and free markets can deliver real benefits to our citizens.
May God bless you all. (Applause.)