Excerpts of remarks….
Western Hemisphere: Remarks for the Council of the Americas Conference: Americas Outlook
Francisco Palmieri, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
U.S. Department of State
May 9, 2017
Good afternoon. Thank you so much to Susan and Eric and the rest of the Council for this opportunity. It is a privilege to be with you today for the 47th Washington Conference of the Americas.
For the nearly 50 years you have held this conference, the Council has underscored what we also know to be true: the Western Hemisphere is and always will be a top priority for the United States.
Strong Bonds, Shared Vision
And, as you know well, the Americas are home to some of the most important markets for our companies.
Strong and healthy regional economies are good for both the United States and for our hemisphere.
That’s why this Administration is committed to expanding security and fostering economic growth in the region.
The Americas represent a key market for U.S. exports. Fortunately for us, the United States is the preferred business partner for most countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Nearly half of all goods and services exported from the United States – $669 billion worth – go north and south. That’s three times more than what we export to China, Japan, and India combined.
With the hemisphere, we are supporting the President’s four trade priorities: promoting U.S. sovereignty; enforcing U.S. trade laws; leveraging U.S. economic strength to expand our goods and services exports; and protecting U.S. intellectual property rights.
We are reviewing existing trade agreements and negotiating new bilateral ones to ensure the benefits to the United States are clear.
But, our work together expands beyond trade agreements.
We are also supporting entrepreneurs; fostering innovation; and supporting education.
We understand that for you to do business, we must work to facilitate legitimate trade and travel between the U.S. and the Hemisphere.
In the Caribbean, we also have strong ties. The United States is the primary trading partner for this region. We had a $4.6 billion trading surplus for the United States in 2016.
However, there are also risks – rising crime and endemic corruption threaten the stability of governments and deprive citizens of their basic rights to security and good governance.
In the Eastern Caribbean, we are focused on dismantling transnational criminal organizations and bolstering police professionalization.
We also promote U.S. exports and support opportunities for the private sector to invest
We focus, for example, on increasing the use of reliable, low-cost sources of energy to help spur economic development and create new opportunities for U.S. companies.
Conclusion and Thanks
We have a busy schedule ahead of us in the Hemisphere.
The United States is committed to engaging with the region based on shared priorities that are vital to the interests of our respective countries.
As business leaders and government officials who follow this Hemisphere, I thank you for your continued partnership and look forward to pressing ahead alongside you.
Excerpts From Reporting By EFE
9 May 2017
US President Donald Trump's policy toward Havana will have "significant differences" over his predecessor, Barack Obama, especially through a "greater emphasis" on human rights within the island, a senior official said Tuesday Of the State Department in Washington, reports EFE.
Trump's government is still immersed in the "comprehensive review" of US policy toward Havana that began after it came to power in January, recalled US Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America Francisco Palmieri.
"As we move forward in this review, I suspect that important differences will emerge in how this government plans to confront the situation in Cuba (compared to the previous administration)," added Palmieri during the Conference of the Americas held annually at the State Department.
"One of the areas that will be a high priority will be to ensure that Cuba makes more substantial progress towards greater respect for human rights in the country, which is certainly an area where we will make greater emphasis when the review is completed,” concluded the official.
The review refers to the process of normalization of bilateral relations initiated by former President Barack Obama in late 2014, including the decision to withdraw Cuba from the State Department's list of states sponsoring terrorism that involves the imposition of sanctions.
In early February, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the Trump government will prioritize human rights in its "complete review" of US policy toward Cuba.
Since then there has been little news of progress in this review, and no contact has been reported between the Trump Government and General Raul Castro.
During the primary election process in 2015 and 2016 in the United States, Trump was the only Republican candidate for president who supported the policy of opening-up to the Raul Castro government.
But in his search for votes in Florida in the general election, Trump promised to "repeal" President Barack Obama's executive measures "unless the Castro regime" restored "freedoms on the island."
The president seems to have approached the hard line towards Cuba of other members of his party, like Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who this Tuesday encouraged Trump to "recalculate the concessions that have been made to the Cuban dictatorship," During another address at the Conference of the Americas.