Thank you very much for the kind introduction, Executive Director Arnavat, and for inviting me to participate in this special event. I want to thank you, as well as Executive Vice President Julie Katzman, for your leadership here at the Inter-American Development Bank.
I also want to acknowledge the many U.S. citizen employees of the IDB for coming this evening, as well as our colleagues serving in other agencies of the Federal government who are with us today.
This celebration provides us with an important moment to pause and reflect on our strong and long-lasting relationship with our Hemisphere, and I appreciate the chance to provide some brief thoughts.
The theme of American independence and diversity is also opportune because our many partnerships with Latin America and the Caribbean reflect our region’s common aspirations in support of social justice and democratic values.
Certainly, we know well that the Americas drive our prosperity. With the addition of Colombia and Panama, the United States now has trade agreements with 12 countries in the hemisphere, a network of partners that runs from the Arctic to Patagonia. Latin America buys more than 40 percent of our exports – three times as much as China.
This is a promising time for the region. One of the most dramatic phenomena of the last 15 years is the growth of the middle class in Latin America and the Caribbean, now numbering more than 275 million people. It’s an expanding and dynamic population, benefiting from policies that promote a commitment to democracy and inclusive growth. Over the next five years, the economies of the region are projected to expand by one-third.
Beyond the economic dimension, leaders in the region are playing key roles in addressing global challenges. In the past three months alone, Colombia hosted the Summit of the Americas, Mexico held the G20, and Brazil convened Rio+20 and the first high level meeting of the Open Government Partnership – all symbols of Latin American ascendancy on the world stage.
Through these events, leaders tackled key themes for our region — including ways to drive growth that is inclusive and sustainable, to knock down barriers to political and economic opportunity for women and marginalized groups like disabled persons, ethnic minorities, and LGBT persons, and to strengthen open and democratic institutions to ensure that every voice has the opportunity to be heard.
The United States understands that investments in education, energy, decent work, social inclusion, and the environment are critical, and we are doing our part.
As President Obama announced at the Summit of the Americas, we are undertaking a number of initiatives to promote economic competitiveness, deepen good governance, and advance social inclusion efforts in the region.
The Small Business Network of the Americas will support small and medium-sized enterprises as the engines of inclusive economic growth and job creation throughout the region. Women-owned firms will play a big part in this through the Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas or WEAmericas initiative, which will reduce the barriers to market access, financing, and training for women in the region. We’re also working on a Broadband Partnership of the Americas to promote universal access to technologies that will improve our region’s competitiveness and foster social inclusion.
We see the IDB as a key partner on these and other priorities in the region.
As the largest source of multilateral finance in the region, the IDB is and will continue to be critical in addressing challenges in the Americas – reducing poverty and inequality, achieving sustainable growth, promoting regional integration, and addressing challenges that arise from climate change and the demand for sustainable and renewable energy.
Secretary Clinton has described how harnessing the “power of proximity” among the United States and Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada is among the most strategically significant tasks facing our foreign policy in the years ahead. The IDB, and another bodies of the Inter-American system, are central to this task.
Together with the IDB and our partners in the region, we look forward to working together, building on our interconnection and the strength of our diversity, to foster shared success.
Thank you again for the opportunity to be with you this evening. I wish you all a happy and healthy Fourth of July, and enjoy the celebration.