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IDB, World Bank hail Americas free trade initiative
01
Oct '08
The World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) welcomed an initiative launched by 12 countries in the Americas to promote free trade in the Western Hemisphere.

The “Pathways to Prosperity Initiative” was announced Thursday after leaders from Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru and the United States met in New York.

IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno and World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick hailed the initiative as a timely effort to defend Latin America's hard-earned economic gains in the face of global financial instability. Trade has been a powerful tool for growth in this region, which has often relied on exports to recover from past crises.

“I welcome this initiative because trade can play an important role in overcoming poverty,” said Zoellick. “With the Doha global trade negotiations stalled, it is more important than ever that countries press on with trade liberalization.”

“This is not the time to recoil from trade liberalization but to deepen our economic integration,” Moreno said. “The ratification of the free trade agreements between the United States, Colombia and Panama would be an important step in the right direction.”

Under the initiative, countries will cooperate on building an open architecture for regional trade consistent with the global trading system, increasing opportunities for their citizens to benefit from expanded trade, exchanging best practices on labor and environmental standards and enforcement, and engaging the private sector and civil society to advance these goals.

Moreno and Zoellick noted that in the last decade Western Hemisphere countries have reached more than 30 comprehensive trade agreements with partners around the world, opening new markets and business opportunities for their companies, generating new jobs for their workers and boosting their economic competitiveness.

Trade has also led to closer regional integration, building trust among neighbors and stronger networks of stakeholders who share common goals of prosperity, they added. As a result, Latin American countries are cooperating more intensely on a range of cross-border issues, from infrastructure to environmental protection to security.

“At the IDB, we take this to heart,” Moreno said. “We are heavily invested in promoting trade and economic integration, providing assistance to Latin American and Caribbean countries in the implementation of new trade agreements and enhancing their capabilities in key areas such as trade facilitation, export promotion, and economic competitiveness. But these efforts must be underpinned with a political will to bring down trade barriers. No time is more appropriate than this time of turbulence to marshal the necessary will.”

“The World Bank Group is fast expanding its trade facilitation services, and we can do so in concert with regional groups,” said Zoellick. “We offer Trade and Transport Facilitation audits and Port Modernization tool kits. We can make multilateral trade work better by sharing practical experience of cutting costs and increasing efficiency. We can help countries simplify and harmonize procedures and documentation across a supply chain.”

Inter-American Development Bank

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