Simultaneous Sessions Between the United States and Five Central American Countries In Nicaragua Strengthen Free Trade Efforts
WASHINGTON - Today the United States advanced free trade globally and within the Western Hemisphere through simultaneous sessions in Washington with the four nations of the Mercosur group and in Nicaragua with five Central American nations.
In Washington, United States Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick met with the four Mercosur ministers responsible for trade from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay ("Four-Plus-One") to discuss global and regional trade liberalization and issues related to promoting economic prosperity. Simultaneously in Managua, Nicaragua, the United States held consultations today with five Central American countries - Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua - that have as a group expressed interest in free trade with the United States.
"President Bush has made clear that promoting trade and open markets is central to American leadership. Trade is the engine of economic freedom, prosperity, and hope within the Western Hemisphere and throughout the world," said Ambassador Zoellick. "I am pleased that so soon after September 11 we could stand united with two groups of Latin American nations to advance our shared commitment to openness through increased trade liberalization."
Enrique V. Iglesias, President of the Inter-American Development Bank, joined the Four-Plus-One ministers for a press conference after the meeting. "To the extent that the Four-Plus-One discussions allow the parties to deepen their mutual understanding of the trade issues, it is good not only for bilateral relations, but given their size and importance, it also will strengthen hemispheric and global initiatives as well," said Iglesias.
The ministerial meeting, arranged in the wake of U.S. Government support for the recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement with Argentina, was held pursuant to the 1991 Rose Garden Agreement between the United States and the four countries. The ministers discussed the importance of launching a new round of global trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting this November and continued progress on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The ministers also agreed on specific topics for a work program and schedule of future government-to-government meetings. They issued a joint statement affirming their commitment to promoting an open environment for trade and investment among the five countries and the significant role trade plays in fostering economic growth and development.
"I was pleased to join my Latin American counterparts in discussing ways to promote trade globally and regionally. We all recognize that trade and openness offers the best hope for promoting economic vitality, opportunity and development, and today we have set in motion a work program to continue our discussions," added Zoellick
Mercosur is the largest preferential trade agreement in Latin America. The Four-Plus-One ministers announced that they would reinvigorate the Council on Trade and Investment established by the Rose Garden Agreement. The Council will carry out a work program designed to pursue the shared goal of free trade, and in the immediate term to explore ways to contribute to economic growth and sustainability through better market access. Working groups have been established within the Council in the areas of agricultural trade, industrial trade, investment development, and electronic commerce.
Each nation has appointed a Four-Plus-One coordinator charged with carrying out the work program. The ministers agreed that the Council will meet before the end of the year to review the progress in the WTO, coordinate their FTAA efforts and agree on measures to deepen the trade relationship in specific areas among the five countries.
Representing the four countries in Washington were Government of Argentina Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship, Adalberto Rodriguez Giavarini, Government of Brazil Minister of Foreign Affairs Celso Lafer, Government of Paraguay Minister of Foreign Affairs Jose Antonio Moreno Ruffinelli, and Government of Uruguay Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Didier Opertti
Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Regina Vargo led the U.S. delegation meeting with the five Central American countries in Managua. In addition, the United States and Panama have agreed to hold similar consultations within the framework of their bilateral Trade and Investment Council. Later this week in Managua, the United States will participate with senior trade officials from the 33 other d emocratic nations of the Western Hemisphere in a meeting of the FTAA's Vice Ministerial-level Trade Negotiations Committee.
Read the Statement on Economic Growth Through Increased Trade.