|San Diego Union-Tribune
April 23, 2001
Leaders endorse free trade expansion
Often-tumultuous session comes to an end in Quebec
By FINLAY LEWIS
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
QUEBEC -- President Bush and 33 other leaders from the Western Hemisphere concluded their often-tumultuous summit yesterday by pledging they will push to create the world's largest regional free trade agreement.
As demonstrators for the environment and worker rights protested outside, the leaders wrapped up the third Summit of the Americas by adopting a
sweeping plan to strengthen democratic government.
The 44-page document also targets a full range of environmental, health, social, political and economic problems common to the hemisphere.
In an apparent bow to California's electricity crisis, the declaration singles out
energy "as one of the fundamental bases for economic development."
The leaders underscored a commitment "to pursuing renewable energy initiatives, promoting energy integration and enhancing regulatory frameworks . . . while promoting the principles of sustainable development."
At a news conference concluding the summit, Bush said sources of energy could be found by expanding the capacity of electricity grids linking the United
States and Mexico. Bush also hailed technological advances that have vastly
expanded Canada's crude oil supplies.
Later, after a post-summit meeting, Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien issued a statement saying they had
established an energy working group "in support of efficient North American
The statement added that the three governments would work to ensure the human rights of migrants.
At the core of the summit's strategy is yesterday's decision to set a Jan. 1, 2005, deadline for completing negotiations to create a Free Trade Area of the
Americas. The agreement, which would be implemented over the following 12
months, would create a $13 trillion market of 800 million consumers.
Mindful of the hemisphere's checkered record in advancing human rights and political freedom, the summit declaration paid tribute to "the values and
practices of democracy." It added that any "unconstitutional" deviation from
that path by a government in the hemisphere would constitute "an insurmountable obstacle" to its participation in future summits and,
presumably, to playing a role in negotiating the proposed free trade area.
The only nation in the hemisphere not to participate in this or the previous two
summits was Cuba, the sole exception to a democratic movement that the summits have been designed to advance.
Upon the conclusion of his first international summit, Bush told reporters: "I listened a lot. I learned a lot. There is no question in my mind that we have
challenges ahead of us, but there's also no question that we can meet those
Mexico's president, in perhaps the most graphic and candid assessment of his region's troubled history, said that in the past, "people would meet in dark
rooms, behind closed doors. . . . You got the impression that maybe people
were ashamed of what they were doing."
Fox, describing the summit as a step toward ridding the hemisphere of its previous "baggage," said the momentum for change began when his nation, the
United States and Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.
But most of the nearly 30,000 protesters who thronged to this 16th century fortress city made clear they had a different view of NAFTA's legacy. Many
said there is a clear link between that agreement and deteriorating environmental protections and worker freedoms, particularly in Mexico.
After briefly disrupting the summit Friday, the protesters used their constant and noisy presence on the streets outside a fenced perimeter to dramatize
their claim that the Free Trade Area of the Americas would give a license to
multinational corporations to extend damage caused by NAFTA.
At the news conference, Chretien acknowledged that the protesters had an impact on the summit, noting he had organized a "parallel summit" Saturday
where protesters' representatives debated senior officials of summit
governments, including Robert Zoellick, Bush's top trade official.
"There are some in my country that want to shut down free trade," Bush said at the news conference. "But it's not going to change my opinion about the
benefits of free trade."
Asked what Latin American governments could do to help him overcome domestic opposition to free trade, Bush said, "Write your congressman."
Earlier summits in Miami in 1994 and in Santiago, Chile, four years later also embraced sweeping action plans that, in the eyes of many analysts, failed to
That record, however, did not prevent Bush and his colleagues from declaring they would "spare no effort" in a drive to cut the "extreme" poverty rate in the
hemisphere by 50 percent by 2015. The declaration does not indicate how that goal would be achieved.
Bush praised Colombian President Andrés Pastrana as a "firm leader" in the fight to stamp out cocaine cartels in his country. He added the United States is
spending $1.3 billion to help in the effort.
Pastrana tried again to persuade the U.S. government to reduce textile tariffs on Andean products destined for the American market, saying, "More than
money, we're asking commerce."