Remarks by the Vice President on Advancing Prosperity and Economic Growth in the Western Hemisphere
7:40 P.M. (Local)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Tom, Guillermo Carey, Kathy Barclay, Minister Muñoz, Minister Rebolledo, Minister Cespedes, Minister Krauss, Ambassador Valdez, elected officials, distinguished members of the U.S. and Chilean business community, and honored guests.
It is my great honor to be with you today in Santiago to celebrate 50 years of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and 100 years of the American Chamber in Chile. (Applause.)
It is such an honor to be here in this historic year, and I bring greetings and congratulations on this milestone from a champion of a stronger economic partnership between the United States and Latin America, the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
Under President Donald Trump, the United States will always put the security and prosperity of America first. But I hope as my presence here today demonstrates, America First does not mean America alone.
The President personally sent me here to Chile, to “el fin de terra” -- (applause) -- because the United States seeks to draw this nation and all the free nations of Latin America ever closer to ourselves in friendship and in commerce -- so that we may partner together, profit together, and prosper together like never before in this great hemisphere of freedom.
It’s a truth borne out by history that Latin America’s prosperity directly impacts the prosperity of the United States. And the American Chamber of Commerce will continue to be essential to our shared prosperity in the years ahead, and we’re building on a strong foundation that all of you here helped to build.
In this year of celebration, let me just say thank you. Let me just say that AmCham has done an extraordinary job building the relationship between our two nations. Ever since its founding, AmCham Chile has brought together American and Chilean businesses to foster investment and opportunity in both our nations. Today you boast more than 550 members and employ more than 430,000 people in those enterprises.
And the Association of American Chambers represents more than 20,000 companies that operate in essentially every corner of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.
In fact, your members account for more than 80 percent of U.S. investment in these regions, and every day, you bring Latin America closer to the United States of America. So why don't you give yourselves a round of applause on a job well done? (Applause.)
Thanks in large part to the companies represented here, and to the dedicated work of the AmCham team, trade between the United States and Latin America is soaring.
The United States is the largest trading partner for nearly two-thirds of the hemisphere. And last year, our two-way trade in the Western Hemisphere totaled a stunning $1.6 trillion.
We trade twice as much with the countries of our hemisphere as we do with China. And we export more to the Americas than we do to all of Asia combined.
Today, more than two of every five dollars in American exports comes to this region, supporting nearly 4 million, good-paying jobs in the United States. And companies across America have invested nearly $850 billion in Latin America.
So let me assure you: Under President Donald Trump, the United States of America wants to trade even more with Latin America. We want to invest even more in Latin America. We want to bring even more of our business culture of entrepreneurship and innovation all across Latin America so that your prosperity and our prosperity will continue to expand together. (Applause.)
I am here tonight because the United States sees tremendous promise and tremendous potential, as well, in Latin America.
In all of our interactions with Latin American leaders, almost without exception, the President and I have made clear we want to see their nations continue to take decisive steps to unleash their economies and empower their citizens because these actions will inaugurate we believe a gold rush of growth just like they already are all across this region.
Simply look at what President Trump has accomplished in our country since he took office just over seven short months ago.
In America, our administration has been rolling back excessive regulation, unleashing American energy, laying the groundwork for historic tax relief -- all of which has already renewed American confidence, spurred the creation of more than 1 million new jobs this year alone, and seen the wealth of Americans on our stock market rise by trillions of dollars.
Under President Donald Trump, the American economy is back, and we're just getting started. (Applause.)
And when it comes to international trade, President Trump has been fighting to break down barriers to American exports and create a level playing field for American workers.
President Trump has made it clear that the United States seeks trade that is both free and fair. And as we speak, our administration is reviewing our existing trade agreements and exploring new bilateral agreements.
In many ways, the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement is a model agreement. Signed in 2003, this agreement eliminated tariffs and expanded market access, while creating new protections for intellectual property and increasing regulatory transparency. And the result has been a dramatic expansion of trade, investment, and opportunity for the people of the United States and of Chile.
Trade between our countries since the signing of that agreement has spiked by more than 350 percent in the last 13 years. Today, our two-way trade in goods and services totaled nearly $30 billion, with a $4.1 billion goods surplus for the United States.
And the United States has been Chile’s largest source of foreign direct investment for years, while Chileans have invested $2.1 billion in our country in industries -- mining, forestry, banking, and all across our economy. Today, our exports to Chile support an estimated 93,000 jobs in the United States.
Before I go further: Thank you to all of you who are here tonight who have made this agreement work. You've brought this framework to life. You've created jobs and wealth for the people of the United States and the people of Chile. And you have our thanks. (Applause.)
As we celebrate this important agreement, it’s important still that we ensure that we live up to the promises that we've made to one another in terms in full.
As I discussed today with President Bachelet, it would be important for Chile to comply with the intellectual property rights chapter of our free-trade agreement, to ensure a fair and level playing field for U.S. companies. Specifically, we spoke of the need to have Chile make television piracy a criminal offense and apply regulatory policies in a transparent manner. And I’m grateful for the President’s openness to considering just those measures.
Beyond Chile, the United States has free-trade agreements with 11 other countries in the Western Hemisphere. And just today, the United States, Mexico, and Canada officially began to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
What we do with NAFTA will be emblematic of how we deal with trade across the wider region. In fact, our prioritization of NAFTA indicates the importance of our hemisphere to this administration.
In the more than 20 years since it was first negotiated, NAFTA has frankly fallen behind the times, and too often U.S. workers have paid the price.
As we begin this renegotiation, you may be assured the United States will work with our allies to the north and the south to update these provisions in line with the original spirit of NAFTA. And both Canada and Mexico already agree that NAFTA has significant room for improvement to ensure a truly level playing field.
As I told Prime Minister Trudeau last month, we will work together, and we will achieve a renegotiation of NAFTA that will be a win-win-win outcome in this hemisphere. And I’m confident under President Trump’s leadership, we’ll modernize NAFTA and bring it into the 21st century.
But trade is only one part of the equation. To deliver on the aspirations of the people of Latin America, we believe its leaders must continue to enact market-based reforms that will create strong and growing economies on an increasing basis.
History attests that economic freedom is the foundation for prosperity, and we need look no further than Chile for proof of that.
Four decades ago, Chile embraced free-market principles --implementing tax reform, tackling regulations, breaking down trade barriers, and confronting corruption head-on even as you strengthened the rule of law. And Chile created an open and integrated economy the likes of which Latin America had never seen in its time.
And Chile has reaped the rewards ever since. Growth has averaged more than 5 percent for more than 30 years. Millions have risen out of poverty in your country. Living standards have soared across the board for Chilean people. And a free economy has ultimately led Chile to a free society, and a vibrant democracy is flourishing and is a hallmark of your success. (Applause.)
So let me take this opportunity simply to congratulate President Bachelet, all the leaders of all the political parties of this country, and the people of Chile for your example to the world advancing economic and political freedom in our hemisphere.
And today, countries around Latin America are following in Chile’s footsteps, and it’s remarkable to watch. Yesterday, I was in Argentina, where President Macri is pursuing a bold agenda of reform and revitalization in the economy of his country.
Two days ago, I was in Colombia, where President Santos is working to bring economic reform and opportunity to areas where poverty and crime have long reigned.
In Brazil, labor, pension, and fiscal reforms are turning the country toward greater economic freedom, integration, and competitiveness.
Further north in Central America, the three nations of the Northern Triangle have committed to improve their economic climates with sweeping reforms in taxes and regulation.
We are literally witnessing the unfolding of a new era of economic growth in this New World, and President Trump and I are grateful for the commitment to economic freedom that is spreading across this hemisphere.
But today, like you might expect from your neighbor to the north, we’re calling on countries across Latin America for all that you have done to do more -- to do much more to expand opportunities for investment through economic freedom across this region.
Every nation in our hemisphere must continue be bold -- bold in reducing the burden of excessive taxation, reducing regulation; bold in breaking down barriers to trade and investment. And yes, every nation in Latin America must continue to be bold in confronting the scourge of corruption.
The government of the United States and our business community will strongly support Latin America as you advance judicial reforms and you strengthen the rule of law in countries across this region.
American companies, as you know, bring a culture of compliance and transparency that perhaps is maybe their greatest legacy in Latin America. But all of us want to see even more actions from the region’s governments to ensure the long-term stability of investments.
Make no mistake about it, more progress, more reform, more transparency will earn more investment and more opportunities all across Latin America. This very gathering is a testament to the extraordinary optimism of U.S. companies in the region. You see an opening for untold progress, and obviously you're ready, willing, and able to seize it.
As we speak, U.S. firms are growing existing investments and preparing new ones in countries all across our hemisphere. Thanks to Chile’s strong support for the rule of law, major companies like Abbot Laboratories, Metlife, and others have already invested billions of dollars here over the years.
And in countries like Argentina, Colombia, and in the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, U.S. firms are making significant investments and commitments, inspired by the progress that’s underway supporting good-paying jobs back in the United States.
There’s no limit to what we can achieve if the nations of Latin America embrace this opportunity with renewed vigor. And I have confidence and President Trump has confidence that you will.
And Latin America’s progress will mean more jobs and growth in the United States of America. We're growing together, and we will grow even more.
A secure Latin America means a more secure United States of America. A prosperous Latin America means a more prosperous United States of America. And make no mistake about it, President and I hold the view that the advance of freedom in Latin America benefits the cause of freedom everywhere because when free peoples stand together, there’s nothing and no limit to what we can accomplish.
It is truly remarkable to think how far so much of Latin America has come in the last several decades. But as we continue to walk this path to economic and political freedom together, the sad truth is that not all of our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere walk with us.
To the north, in Venezuela, the tragedy of tyranny is playing out before our eyes. As President Trump has said, in his words, the Venezuelan people are suffering, the Venezuelan people are dying.
I saw firsthand just a few days ago Venezuelan people experiencing the grinding poverty that's being wrought by the Maduro regime. I met with refugees in Colombia who had fled their own home country with their families. They told me of how families cannot find the food and medicine that they need to survive, and how innocent children are literally perishing every day from deprivation and hunger.
Today, the once-free people of Venezuela are being forced to endure this fate by the brutality of the Maduro regime. Venezuela is sliding into dictatorship, and as President Donald Trump has said “the United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles.” (Applause.)
We will continue to stand with free nations across our hemisphere until democracy is restored for the Venezuelan people.
Let me take this opportunity to praise Chile and all the other free nations in our hemisphere who have spoken out with one voice to condemn the actions of the Maduro regime. Their actions and the words they've expressed have been an inspiration to the wider world.
And for our part, The United States will continue to bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until democracy in Venezuela is restored.
As President Trump said just a few days ago, “we have many options for Venezuela.” But the President and I truly believe that working with all our allies across Latin America, that we can achieve a peaceable solution to the crisis facing the Venezuelan people. But we much achieve that goal together. (Applause.)
And be assured what we do, we will do together. We do this because it’s right. The Venezuelan people deserve freedom. And we do this because, as President Trump has said, a “stable and peaceful Venezuela is in the best interest of the entire hemisphere.”
The truth we all know is a failed state knows no boundaries. A failed state in Venezuela will drive more illegal drug trafficking with its murderous criminal consequences radiating outward and destroying families in your countries and in ours. A failed state in Venezuela will drive more illegal migration, compromising our borders and burdening our economies. And ultimately, a failed state in Venezuela will endanger the security, prosperity, and well-being of all who call our Western Hemisphere home.
My friends, we all live in the same neighborhood. We succeed when our neighbors succeed. We struggle when our neighbors struggle. And so we will continue to act together to support the people of Venezuela until freedom once again dawns in that nation. (Applause.)
Freedom always has been and always will be the surest pathway to prosperity. The people of Chile know that. The continued embrace of liberty across Latin America will propel us even further down this path of progress that we find ourselves on.
Under President Donald Trump, the United States will work without ceasing to strengthen our bonds of friendship and commerce with the nations of Latin America. We’ll stand with all the free peoples of these great countries as they and their leaders take action to unleash their full potential.
We are building on a strong foundation, established in no small part by the actions of AmCham and all those gathered here. And together I believe we will reach new heights of prosperity and opportunity in this still new century, and the world will once again marvel at the New World.
And I’m confident. I have faith. I have faith in the free enterprise and in the political freedom and shared values that bring us together here tonight. I have faith in the good people of this hemisphere, in their reliance and determination and aspirations. I have faith in President Trump’s vision for a hemisphere growing together. And lastly, I have faith in Him who has ever guided our forbearers when they first found this New World, faced hardships and trials, and carved out a vision for liberty. And by His grace, I know the best days for the United States of America, the best days for Latin America, and the best days for this New World are yet to come.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless you for all your success and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
8:01 P.M. (Local)