The second Summit of the Americas, held in
Santiago, Chile, on April 18-19, 1998, showcased how much influence
and leadership the United States has lost throughout Latin America
during the Administration of President Bill Clinton. His attendance
at the summit without fast-track trade negotiating authority was
symptomatic of the creeping paralysis in U.S. trade policy that has
damaged U.S. relations with Latin America since the collapse of the
Mexican peso in December 1994. Many Latin American governments
today fear that President Clinton has given up on the region. Their
concern may be justified.
Clinton Administration's missteps in Latin America constitute a
legacy of missed opportunities. Since 1994, for example, President
Clinton has missed the opportunity to:
Expand the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA) to Chile. In December 1994, President Clinton
pledged that Chile would become NAFTA's fourth member. At the
Santiago summit, however, President Clinton and Chilean President
Eduardo Frei agreed to abandon the expansion effort.
Set the structure and pace of the
negotiations to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) by
2005. Since 1994, the United States had sought accelerated
negotiations with NAFTA as the benchmark trade agreement. In
Santiago, Brazil succeeded in imposing a "go-slow" timetable on the
FTAA negotiations and became (with the United States) an officially
designated "co-leader" of the negotiations.
Include Caribbean and Central American
democracies in NAFTA. Fast-track authority is not needed to
upgrade the existing trade agreement between the United States and
the democracies of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). The
Clinton Administration, however, never has made a strong push in
Congress to win NAFTA trading parity for these countries.
Create a real democracy in Haiti.
After the United States spent over $2.8 billion to restore
democracy in Haiti, the island is bankrupt economically and
End Fidel Castro's communist regime in
Cuba. In 1993, Castro was isolated internationally, and the
United States was in a position to weaken Castro's regime in Cuba
by tightening the trade embargo. Today, Castro's case against the
U.S. embargo has been taken up by Canada, Mexico, and the European
Negotiate a continued U.S. presence in
Panama after the Panama Canal is handed over to Panama's
government on December 31, 1999. Panama does not have the military
capability to guarantee the security of the Panama Canal, nor does
it have the ability to resist the spread into Panamanian territory
of Colombia's escalating civil war.
Slow the spread of international drug
trafficking in Latin America. On President Clinton's watch,
U.S. drug policy and the annual U.S. drug certification process
have lost credibility throughout the Americas, hurting U.S.
prestige and leadership.
erosion of U.S. relations with Latin America and the Caribbean is
happening at a bad time for the region. The pace of economic reform
is slowing throughout Latin America, and doubts are growing in many
countries about the political sustainability of free-market
policies. The region's fragile democracies also are under growing
assault from pervasive political corruption, weak and ineffectual
courts, the absence of rule of law, the relentless spread of
international organized crime, and drug trafficking.
DAMAGE IN U.S.-LATIN AMERICA RELATIONS
win back Latin America's waning trust and restore U.S. leadership
and credibility throughout the region, the United States
Renew the President's fast-track
negotiating authority immediately. Without fast-track authority,
the United States cannot lead or even participate fully in the FTAA
Negotiate bilateral free-trade
agreements, using fast-track authority, with countries like Chile,
Argentina, Costa Rica, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Launch a "Millennium Round" of global
trade liberalization talks within the World Trade Organization.
Approve NAFTA parity for Caribbean
and Central American democracies. Granting the CBI countries the
same trade status that Mexico enjoys under NAFTA would help to
counter the region's economic and social problems.
Accelerate NAFTA's implementation.
NAFTA has been a major commercial success in its first four years.
Mexico now is the world's second largest buyer of U.S. merchandise
goods exports, after Canada and before Japan.
Enforce the Helms-Burton Act.
President Clinton should adopt a carrot-and-stick policy that
combines full enforcement of this law, which toughens the U.S.
trade embargo against Cuba, with an outreach effort to the Cuban
people that bypasses Castro's communist regime, much as President
Ronald Reagan did with the peoples of the Soviet Union during the
final years of the Cold War.
Rethink U.S. drug policy in Latin
America. The United States should place greater emphasis on
reducing domestic demand through a combination of law enforcement
and education programs and increase counter-drug security at the
U.S.-Mexico border, in Puerto Rico, and in other U.S. ports of
Negotiate a continued U.S. military
presence in Panama. Although nearly a century old, the Panama Canal
still is vitally important to U.S. commercial interests.
John Sweeney is a
former Policy Analyst for Latin America and Trade Issues in The
Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis International Studies Center at The