March 20, 2002 | News Releases on Latin America
WASHINGTON, Mar. 20, 2002-President Bush's upcoming visit to Latin and South America offers his administration an ideal opportunity to foster cooperation between the United States and its southern neighbors on three common goals-bolstering hemispheric security, promoting free trade and encouraging democratic reform, a new Heritage Foundation paper says.
The president begins his trip with a March 22 stop in Monterrey, Mexico at the U.N. International Conference on Financing for Development, where he should stress that economic development depends not on aid but on economic freedom, say Heritage analysts Stephen Johnson and Ana Eiras. "Aid without reform is futile," they write, noting evidence from the "2002 Index of Economic Freedom" (published by Heritage and The Wall Street Journal) that the world's freest economies have the highest per capita income.
The president also should encourage his Mexican counterpart, Vicente Fox, to press ahead with promised economic reforms designed to create more jobs, from protecting property rights to making it easier to open small businesses, Johnson and Eiras say. In addition, President Bush should pledge greater cooperation in improving border security and taking other steps to strengthen the war on terrorism. The president then visits Peru, where terrorism, fueled by the drug trade, is on the rise. President Alejandro Toledo Manrique should be encouraged to pursue a variety of badly needed political and economic reforms, the analysts say, such as making courts more independent of the executive branch and easing burdensome regulations on businesses. And, they say, President Bush should tie future trade deals with Peru to the adoption of these reforms. Last stop: El Salvador, where President Bush will meet with President Francisco Flores to discuss the proposed U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) announced in January. While there, Johnson and Eiras say, President Bush should emphasize America's commitment to the advancement of free-market reform in the region and encourage his counterparts to do so as well.
"This message is important for two reasons," they write. "First, economic reform will speed up free-trade negotiations, and second, once reforms open economies to much wider citizen participation, many of the poor will be able to move into the ranks of the middle class, the backbone of a democratic society."