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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.


Tom Shannon
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs

November 2, 2005

Tom Shannon
Thank you all for joining us today. As you may know, President Bush will be traveling to Mar del Plata, Argentina, tomorrow to attend the Summit of the Americas. This year's Summit, with its theme, "Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance," will build on the great work of the past four Summits. President Bush will work with 33 heads of state of the hemisphere to develop a hemispheric vision of the challenges and priorities that should guide regional cooperation efforts. I look forward to answering your questions.

Carolina, from San Paulo,Brazil writes:
First of all I'd like to say that many people in Brazil support the way President Bush is leading the War on Terror.The press here didn't release the locations that he's going I was wondering if he's coming to San Paulo. P.S:First Lady We'RE YOUR FANSOur people'll like to welcome you and your husband

Tom Shannon
President Bush is thrilled to be able to visit Brazil. Unfortunately, due to his busy schedule he will only be able to visit Brasilia. Thanks for being a fan of the First Lady. We are too.

Marcelo, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil writes:
Is Mrs Bush coming over to Brazil?Does she have a extra agenda with Mrs Lula da Silva?

Tom Shannon
Mrs. Bush will accompany the President to Brazil. She looks forward to seeing the Brazilian First Lady.

Ruben, from Argentina writes:
Para que le va a servir el ALCA a la Argentina, si EEUU tiene mayor produccion que nosotros?

Tom Shannon
We want to expand our trade with Argentina, one of the largest economies on the continent. Along with all other FTAA members, Argentina stands to gain by access to a huge new market for its goods and services. We expect the FTAA to deliver increased trade, new markets for Argentine businesses and new jobs for Argentina's workers, as well as increased choices and lower prices for Argentine consumers.

Courtney, from Medford, MA writes:
Assistant Secretary Shannon,What does President Bush hope to accomplish during his meetings with Latin American leaders regarding his commitment

to using trade as an engine for economic growth and democracy?

Tom Shannon
Trade is a very important component of any country's efforts to create jobs, spur economic growth, and better the lives of its citizens. Latin America is no exception, where we've seen important gains in trade-led growth during the past few years. At the Summit, the President wants to join with our partners in the region to re-emphasize the benefits to the entire hemisphere of increased trade. He will focus on the gains we've seen through the NAFTA and CAFTA accords, and build momentum for the Free Trade Area of the Americas and the upcoming Doha Round of trade talks .These important multilateral initiatives will lead to increased opportunity and job creation in this hemisphere to attack poverty head-on.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Sec. Shannon: This upcoming Summit. Is this just a meeting of the minds or does the President have an agenda? And moving on to Brazil and Argentina is this just a courtesy call or a planned agenda meeting? Thank You

Tom Shannon
The Summit of the Americas process is based on an agenda developed by all 34 democratically elected governments in our Hemisphere. Leaders at the Summit will reaffirm the hemisphere’s shared values on democracy and the best ways to create jobs, reduce poverty, expand trade, and promote growth. After the Summit, the President’s visits to Brazil and Panama will focus on important trade and regional issues.

John, from Alexandria, VA writes:
What are the U.S. Govt's top priorities with respect to Latin America?

Tom Shannon
Our priorities in Latin America include strengthening democracy, promoting economic growth and prosperity, and bolstering security. We focus on defending democracy throughout the hemisphere by working to create a community of nations with strong democratic institutions and high transparency and accountability, where the people are heard and share in the benefits of reform. We defend open markets throughout the region by supporting expanded economic opportunity and free trade agreements, providing assistance to countries in crisis, and fighting corruption. We protect our borders through new, innovative methods of cooperation with our hemispheric partners. We fight terrorism and drug trafficking throughout the region and stand up to tyranny in Cuba.

Daniel, from Lakeville, CT writes:
Hi Mr. Shannon. Is the trip going to resolve the battle of words Venezuala and the U.S. are engaging in?

Tom Shannon
Our respective governments have very different visions for the Hemisphere. We see a future of hemispheric cooperation, anchored in the OAS Inter-American Democratic Charter and the Summit process, to strengthen democratic institutions, improve regional security and foster economic prosperity and opportunity for all. This vision is an integral part of the President’s global freedom agenda and builds on the work of the previous four Summits. In contrast, the Venezuelan government appears to advocate an economic model rooted in the statist, protectionist policies of the past that failed to deliver either prosperity or development.. We will continue to speak out in favor of our vision—one which reflects the values and aspirations of the hemisphere.

Fernando, from Houston Texas writes:
Just a comment.I am a NASA astronaut born in Argentina. I was appointed in 2002 by President G. W. Bush to serve in the Presidents Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans under the Presidents No Child Left Behind Act." I'll be in Argentina for two weeks with my 81 year old father starting this coming saturday visiting family.

As an American and as a Argentine born I am more than thrilled and happy to see our President visit my country of birth. There is a lot of work to be done in latin America and President Bush will surely carry a message of hope.

Bienvenido a Argentina Mr. Bush

Tom Shannon
Thank you very much for your warm words. We are looking forward to the President’s visit to Argentina, and wish you and your father a very happy stay in the land of your birth.

Marcos, from Santiago, Chile writes:
Many greetings from Chile and good luck to Mr. President in this trip around Latin America. My question is about the Argentine, a great, great country, but with big problems. Political problems, social problems, corruption and drugs. Could the US government help to Mr. President Kirchner in this issues or the OAS? Thank you so much for this dialogue.

Tom Shannon
The United States will continue its already close and collaborative relationship with President Kirchner and the people of Argentina. The United States has a wide and deep relationship with Argentina, and runs the gamut from people-to-people contacts to trade, counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism efforts, to regional stability and science cooperation. You name it, and Argentina and the United States are working together on it. We acknowledge the unprecedented challenges that Argentina has faced these last few years, worse than what the United States went through during the Great Depression. We will continue our deep cooperation in all these areas to help Argentina.

Pedro, from Salvador Brazil writes:
Wich cities president Bush will visit in Brazil? Would he mind talk with some of his fans? God Bless president Bush

Tom Shannon
Thank you for your kind remarks. President Bush will only be visiting Brasilia on this trip. Although this is a short visit, he hopes to meet with a variety of Brazilians to exchange views.

Krissi, from Berlin, Germany writes:
Tom, thanks for taking my question. I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about what the President hopes to accomplish during his visit. Also, I would like to know if Latin American countries in the Presidents view play a vital role in the global war on terrorism. Thanks, and have a great day.

Tom Shannon
In a very real sense, all of our Latin American allies play a vital role in the global war on terrorism by cooperating with us on key concerns such as border security and the war against illegal drugs, the illicit proceeds of which may be used by some groups worldwide to fund terrorist activities. Two countries in particular -- our southern neighbor, Mexico, with which we share a long border, and Colombia, which has long suffered from narcotics-fueled terrorism -- are especially critical partners at this moment in time . We laud both, and all our friends in Latin America, for their commitment to hemispheric security.

Aurelia, from miami writes:
Can you tell us what you think about President Kirchner of Argentina?

Tom Shannon
President Bush thinks that President Kirchner is a fine man. After all, he and President Bush have a lot in common: both were “southern” governors, have two wonderful children, and are married to strong and beautiful women. (As you know, President Kirchner was the governor of the Santa Cruz Province, in southern Argentina.) Presidents Kirchner and Bush have an excellent personal relationship, and stay in touch, including over the phone on occasion. President Bush has great respect for the central role President Kirchner has played in turning the Argentine economy around, as it emerges from its economic and social crisis of 2001-02 and beyond, as well as for President Kirchner’s roles in other areas, such as reinvigorating democracy, promoting respect for human rights, and countering corruption and crime.

Richard, from Grasonville, MD writes:
Will the President's trip to the Latin America Summit in Argentina involve a presonal dialogue with Venezuela President Chavez?

Tom Shannon
No meetings between President Bush and President Chávez are currently scheduled. President Chávez has stated publicly in recent days that he plans to go the Summit to declare the Free Trade of the Americas "dead" and denounce what he calls "U.S. imperialism." The President, on the other hand, will be there to work with his counterparts on a positive agenda to create jobs and economic opportunities for all our citizens and help the poor and traditionally marginalized groups fully join the economic life of their countries. It is unfortunate that the Venezuelan government has chosen not to take advantage of this opportunity to work constructively with its neighbors. It’s thus hard to imagine a productive dialogue when the Venezuelan government has repeatedly made clear its negative intentions with respect to the Summit and its personal animosity toward the President. This is especially regrettable given our traditionally friendly relationship with the Venezuelan government and our continued close ties to the Venezuelan people.

Eliana, from Buenos Aires writes:
Hi, I'd like to ask how would you describe the relationship between the U.S. and the Argentine government of Nestor Kirchner and if you think Kirchner's relationship with Chavez as a concern. Thanks

Tom Shannon
President Kirchner, like President Bush, follows events in Venezuela, and wants this great country to succeed. We were pleased to see that on his two visits to Venezuela over the last couple of years, he met with Venezuelan opposition leaders each time. President Bush is deeply grateful for the outstanding and professional job that the 600 Argentine peacekeepers have done in Haiti, as part of the effort to help out a neighbor in need.

Daniel, from Tampa, FL writes:
I think the president should visit other countries other than the usual ones. Such countries like Ecuador are friendly to the U.S. and have a lot to offer. It would also let small countries know the U.S. cares about them and show the rest of the world that we not only stand with the big countries, but also with the less bigger ones. God Bless America and Keep Up The Good Work President Bush

Tom Shannon
The United States and Ecuador have a long history of friendly relations and we share a common vision of a democratic and prosperous hemisphere that provides opportunities for all its citizens. We want to assure the government and people of Ecuador that the United States remains engaged in reinforcing our hemispheric commitment to constitutional democracy, strong democratic institutions and respect for the rule of law.

Rahul, from San Francisco, CA writes:
America is troubled by drugrelated problems. Do you think the president is going to discuss this to leaders so that a way can be found to stop the drugs getting into America?

Tom Shannon
Illegal drugs impose a staggering toll on the United States, killing over 20,000 Americans annually and costing more than $160 billion in law enforcement, drug-related health care, and lost productivity. The drug trade also threatens the other countries in the hemisphere by corrupting officials, subverting democratic institutions and the rule of law, and supporting terrorism. A top priority of ours in the Hemisphere is to protect Americans from international crime and illegal drugs and to support cooperative governments in the region. The counternarcotics programs run by the U.S. government strive to improve the capacity and will those governments through programs that eradicate drug crops, interdict illegal drugs, dismantle trafficking organizations, advance the rule of law and build international cooperation.

Ernesto, from Panama City, Panama writes:
We Panamanians are very concerned about USPanama security cooperation arrangements. Is there any contingency plans from the US in order to address any terrorist threat to the Panama Canal in the context of the neutrality treaty signed with Panama? If the US would consider that Panama does not have the capacity to confront any assimetrycal threat to the canal, would the US act unilaterally?

Tom Shannon
Panama has done an outstanding job managing the Panama Canal -- including its security -- and we value the close cooperation we have enjoyed with the government of Panama and the Canal Authority. Almost two thirds of the cargo transiting the Panama Canal is either traveling to or from a U.S. port, so the security of the Canal is a high priority for the U.S., just as it is for Panama. We will continue to work in partnership with Panamanian authorities to ensure the continued security of Canal operations.

Pedro, from NL writes:
¿Cuál considera usted será la proyección que tenga la visita del presidente Bush a Panamá en relación a temas sensitivos de interés americano como lo sería la anunciada proyección de la ampliación del canal, el blanqueo de capitales y la lucha contra el terrorismo?

Tom Shannon
Los Estados Unidos y Panamá tienen una relación excelente, basada en una visión compartida, apoyando a la democracia, el libre comercio y la lucha en contra del crimen transnacional. El Presidente Bush viene a Panamá para tratar estos temas con el Presidente Torrijos y recalcar la relación de amistad y apoyo mutuo que tiene Panamá con los Estados Unidos.

The United States and Panama enjoy an excellent relationship, based on a shared vision of support for democracy, free trade, and the fight against transnational crime. President Bush is coming to Panama to discuss these issues with President Torrijos and to underscore the special friendship and partnership between Panama and the United States.

Tom Shannon
This has been a great session. Thank you for all the wonderful questions. I know there are many more questions out there and I suggest you check out the Summit’s website at, or the State Department’s Summit site at Thank you, again.

Editor's Note: To learn more about the 2005 Summit of the Americas and the President's Trip to Latin America, click here.

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