Secretary Antony J. Blinken And United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai At a Virtual Ministerial for the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Buenas tardes.  Very good to see you all.  Thanks so much for joining us here today.  It’s really wonderful having an opportunity to see so many friends from across our hemisphere together virtually, and we also look forward to the opportunities to get together in person.

There is no region that the United States is more profoundly – or personally – connected to than the Americas.  We have a hemisphere that’s forever linked by common language and geography; by incredibly close bonds of family and community; and by a shared focus on advancing democracy so that we can deliver for our people.

When President Biden announced the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles last June, he did so recognizing that the countries in our region are stronger, and better prepared to seize opportunities for our people, when we work together.

And I think we all recognize that our cooperation is more important than ever, as we face in our hemisphere serious challenges: from COVID-19 and its economic consequences, to high food and energy prices exacerbated by President Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine, to enduring problems like a lack of broad-based economic opportunity, corruption, chronic insecurity.

Citizens in all of our countries across the region are looking for their governments to address these shared challenges, to deliver results, so that they’re free to pursue a future that is full of opportunity and, hopefully, prosperity.  Today, we are excited to officially launch an ambitious, high-standards initiative that will help us do just that.

And let me say here: the Americas Partnership is just that – a partnership.  Our governments have been in constant dialogue to shape the agenda.  We’re also consulting closely with civil society, with labor, environmental groups, the private sector, and we’re committed to bringing historically underrepresented groups to the table as well.

The Americas Partnership will accelerate our shared work to strengthen supply chains and to make them more resilient to future shocks – so that the goods and products that our populations rely on are affordable and available, and workers’ rights are respected in the doing.

It will deepen our cooperation on the clean energy transition, conservation, climate resilience – helping us share technologies and best practices and boost public and private investment – all while creating good-paying jobs.

It will reinvigorate and reform our regional economic institutions, like the Inter-American Development Bank, and deploy new financing tools to mobilize more investment and focus on priorities like the climate crisis, inclusive opportunity, private sector development.

The partnership will boost our longstanding trade and commercial ties, and work to bring the benefits of sustainable, inclusive, responsible trade to all of our people – which Ambassador Tai will speak more about in just a moment.

Finally, it will help update what President Biden calls the “basic bargain” – what our citizens expect from their governments.  The Americas Partnership will explore how all of us can support public investments and innovations that make life better and fairer for our communities – creating opportunities for workers to earn a decent wage, for children to get a good education, for women to enter or return to the workforce.

We’ll continue to adapt the agenda based on the needs of our populations, the changing circumstances in our region and the world, and the voices of the countries here.  And let me emphasize that the door to this partnership will remain open, open to any country that is willing to uphold our high standards and work toward our shared goals.

This dialogue marshals the strength, the ingenuity, the diversity of an incredibly dynamic region.  We’re 90 percent of the Western Hemisphere’s GDP; nearly two-thirds of its population.  And as President Biden has said, there is nothing we cannot do together.

So we’re very much looking forward to hearing from everyone today – but not just today, in the months ahead – about how we can make real our shared vision of the Americas Partnership.  Our people are looking to us to deliver – and I’m confident that, together, we can honor their trust.

With that said, let me turn it over to Ambassador Tai.  Katherine.

AMBASSADOR TAI:  Thank you so much, Secretary Blinken.  And I’m glad to see all of you as we advance the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity.  Thank you so much for joining us today.

President Biden summed up the goal of this initiative when he announced it during the Summit of the Americas last June: to respond to basic human desires that we share for dignity, for safety, and for security.  The traditional way of doing trade gave us cheap goods and more production.  But at the same time, it also contributed to growing inequality, sprawling and vulnerable supply chains, and workers and communities being displaced and left behind.

Under the President’s leadership, this administration has been writing a new story on trade, one that addresses today’s pressing issues that directly impact everyday people to deliver real opportunities for workers and communities and advance our global priorities, like tackling the climate crisis and building resilient supply chains.

The Americas Partnership is a part of our pursuit of a worker-centered trade policy.  It will be a new type of economic arrangement anchored on cooperation to build our economies from the bottom up and from the middle out.  This will be a historic agreement with one of the most dynamic, economic regions in the world.  The Western Hemisphere accounts for almost 32 percent of global GDP, and the United States’ ties with the region are broad and deep.

We have some of our most longstanding trade agreements in this region, like our agreements with Chile, Colombia, and Peru.  We also have some of our newest, like the renegotiated U.S.‑Mexico-Canada agreement and the Protocol on Trade Rules and Transparency with Ecuador.  We are committed to working with our partners to fully implement these existing agreements.  And at the same time, we recognize that we need new tools to address new problems that will shape the coming decades to better integrate our economies, reinforce our regional ties, and ensure that the benefits of trade are shared by all our citizens.  And that is exactly what we intend to do through the partnership.

I am very pleased with the joint declaration we’re releasing today.  It’s ambitious and reflects our shared priorities, and that includes empowering our workers and eradicating forced labor, strengthening our supply chains to be more resilient against unexpected shocks, growing our economies, fostering innovation in both the public and private sectors, and tackling the climate crisis by growing climate-related industries and creating good-paying jobs throughout our region.

This is truly a partnership, as Secretary Blinken said, not only among the governments represented here but also with our relevant stakeholders, including civil society, labor, the private sector, and our Congress.

In my role as the U.S. Trade Representative, I’ve made it a priority to meet with manufacturers, farmers, producers, and fishers as much as I can to hear directly from them and to incorporate their priorities in our policies.  The same principle applies to this initiative.  The Americas Partnership will be a tool to bring more voices to the table, to ensure that people who have been traditionally left out of the conversation, like women, women entrepreneurs, indigenous peoples, and other underrepresented groups, can help shape this new chapter in our collective story on trade.  Our approach with this partnership will reflect these values to make a future that is more resilient, more sustainable, and more inclusive, and to create new opportunities for all our communities.

I look forward to working with Secretary Blinken and all of you as we begin this exciting opportunity.  Thank you again for coming along with us, and I’ll now turn it back over to Secretary Blinken.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Katherine, thank you very much.  And to all our colleagues, again, it’s wonderful to have everyone with us today.

[Ministers from participating countries make remarks.]

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Madam Minister, thank you very, very much, and gracias a todas y a todos.  We’re really delighted to have everyone together today.  Let me just say in conclusion how much we appreciate the insights that we’ve heard, and especially the partnership that we share in this initiative.

With the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, we’re sending a strong message that we intend to respond to the challenges as well as the opportunities of our time alongside our partners.

That focus on partnerships is why we created the Americas Health Corps, the Cities Forward Initiative, the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis, and other regional initiatives.

It’s not just about responding to the challenges, but also about an affirmative vision for the future.  That’s what’s imbedded in the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity.  What we do together in our region will have global effects, and I think and hope that it can actually help shape a global race to the top, not to the bottom.

So simply put, we look very much forward to working everyone in the months ahead – including in April at the Cities Summit of the Americas.

With that, Katherine, I’ll leave it to you to close out.

AMBASSADOR TAI:  Thank you so much, Secretary Blinken, Tony.  I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all my fellow ministers for all of your thoughtful insights today.  And as I’m looking around at the screens, it occurs to me that I have had a chance to see almost all of you in person recently, if not in the past couple of weeks, in the past couple months, whether in the context of U.S.-Mexico-Canada, APEC, the WTO, the WTO mini-ministerials.

And I want to express how truly delighted I am and excited I am to have the opportunity to work with all of you in this grouping on a hemispheric project.  I’m confident that together we can build a fair and equitable tomorrow for our citizens and bring lasting change, and I’m grateful to have all of you as partners as we begin this endeavor with the Americas Partnership.

When he addressed the United Nations General Assembly, President Biden said that the United States is opening an era of relentless diplomacy to address the challenges that matter most to people’s lives – all people’s lives – and trade is a critical part of this relentless diplomacy.  All of us are here to drive sustainable and inclusive economic growth for our people.

We share this goal because we know that our well-being and economic security are inextricably linked.  We all know the challenges we face.  Many of our economies are still recovering from the COVID pandemic, as many of you have commented, as well as global inflation, which has been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is straining families’ budgets.

To advance our vision for a human-centric approach to trade, all 12 of our economies must be in this together to deepen our economic cooperation, strengthen our collective resilience, and advance – as many of you noted – democracy and a shared prosperity.  We have a lot of work ahead of us: strengthening our supply chains, lifting up our small businesses, creating green jobs, reinvigorating our financial institutions.  These are all priorities that we will focus on as we begin to fill in the details.

So let’s come together and demonstrate that we can use trade as a force for good, and that we can use this partnership as a new model for others in our region to join.

Thank you again, and I look forward to working with all of you in the months ahead.  Thank you very much, Tony.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks, everyone.  Gracias.  Merci.

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originally published at Politics - JISIP NEWS