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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 17, 2001

Remarks by the President to the Organization of American States
The Organization of American States Washington, D.C.

Listen to the President's Remarks

1:45 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much. Secretary General, Distinguished Ambassadors, it's a pleasure for me to be here at the OAS.

I want to recognize, before I begin, Luigi Einaudi, who has ably served our government for decades. He's now lent his skills and experience to the OAS. It is clear that he and the Secretary General have made a very good team. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. (Applause.)

As I prepare to go to the Summit of the Americas in Quebec, I thought it was important to make a visit to the House of the Americas. It was a good meeting. I just had a good meeting with the Secretary General. We had a good discussion about the future of the OAS and its important role.

We discussed opportunities and challenges that our hemisphere faces. Today, I want to speak with you about our shared future and the important role the OAS will play in helping to shape it.

Our gathering in Quebec comes at a remarkable moment in history. All the nations of this hemisphere, save one, have embraced a collective commitment to democracy, and to the fundamental freedoms that underlie democracy.

We have embraced a collective challenge to build a hemisphere that trades in freedom and grows in prosperity. We have embraced a collective responsibility to break down the barriers of poverty, disease, ignorance, so individuals may better realize their full, God-given potential.

The OAS has an important role to play in these common goals. In lands where liberty is threatened by corruption, drugs and human rights abuses, the OAS is helping combat these destructive forces. Along borders where tensions run high, the OAS helps build confidence and avoid crises.

And in lands where freedom's hold is fragile, the OAS is there to strengthen it. The OAS's recent work in Peru is an example of this organization's commitment to democracy. The election, held there on April the 8th, was peaceful and well-run. And we know this: It is a direct result of the Secretary General's involvement. And our hemisphere is grateful, Mr. Secretary.

We need to build on successes like these. The United States hopes, for example, that the OAS can serve as a valuable mediator in Haiti, between President Aristide and the democratic opposition. We also need to build on the progress the OAS has made in the fight against drug-trafficking and abuse. Thanks to the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control commission, our hemisphere is more united in addressing this problem, both in supply, and I might remind you, in demand, than it has ever been before. And the commission's new evaluation system for monitoring nations' progress in fighting drugs is a major achievement.

In this week's Quebec Summit, our goal is simple, yet profound. The discussions we hold, and the mandates we produce, must help improve the lives of people throughout our hemisphere. The summit is given meaning and value by concrete results. We must strengthen democratic institutions in this hemisphere, to give reality to the forms of democracy. This means improving judicial institutions, and making government more open.

Good government is essential to building the trust of our citizens. And democratic values must remain the core of our hemispheric familia. As Prime Minister Chretien so apply said in this very hall last February, we must ensure that smaller economies are provided the assistance they need to implement trade agreements, and to realize the full benefits of a more integrated hemisphere.

We must extend the benefits of education in this hemisphere. Both development and democracy in the long term depend on education. We must build the skills and reward the hopes of all our people.

And we must affirm our commitment to complete negotiations on the free trade area of the Americans by January, 2005. Nothing we do in Quebec will be more important or have a greater long-term impact. It will make our hemisphere the largest free trade area in the world, encompassing 34 countries and 800 million people.

There's a vital link between freedom of people and freedom of commerce. Democratic freedoms cannot flourish unless our hemisphere also builds a prosperity whose benefits are widely shared. And open trade is an essential foundation for that prosperity and that possibility.

Open trade fuels the engines of economic growth that creates new jobs and new income. It applies the power of markets to the needs of the poor. It spurs the process of economic and legal reform. It helps dismantle protectionist bureaucracies that stifle incentive and invite corruption. And open trade reenforces the habits of liberty that sustain democracy over the long term.

For all these reasons, my administration is committed to pursuing open trade at every opportunity. We'll pursue open trade bilaterally, with individual nations such as Chile and Singapore and Jordan. We'll pursue open trade globally through a new round of multilateral negotiations.

We want to open global markets so that our farmers and ranchers and workers and service providers and high-tech entrepreneurs can enjoy the benefits of a more integrated world. And, of course, we'll pursue these goals throughout our hemisphere through the free trade area of the Americas.

Since open trade is one of my top priorities for our hemisphere, gaining U.S. trade promotion authority is one of my top priorities in Congress. I made this clear in my first address to the Congress. We have reinforced this message in meetings my Cabinet officers and I have had with over 100 members of Congress. Trade promotion authority gives our trading partners confidence that they can rely on the deals that they negotiate. It allows us to seize opportunities to expand the circle of trade and prosperity.

We're now actively working with Congress on a strategy for passing legislation, granting the trade promotion authority. We'll intensify this effort when I return from Quebec, and I'm confident we'll succeed.

Shortly after the summit, we'll also publish the initial working draft of our hemisphere free trade agreement. This will allow our citizens from all our countries to see what is being negotiated and give them a chance to provide their views on this important document.

Just a few moments ago, the Secretary General and I walked from his office, and we passed the Hall of Heroes. The great leaders honored there embody the spirit of cooperation that chracterizes the OAS. These visionaries imagined a future in which the Americas would be bound together in a common effort to create a hemisphere that is both free and prosperous.

Today, we have the opportunity to realize that dream. Together, it is our responsibility to seize the moment.

Thank you for having me. (Applause.)

END 1:56 P.M. EDT

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