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An Agenda for the US and Latin America

A community of democracies would make the nations of the Americas more productive and globally competitive

THE Inter-American Dialogue - an assembly of 100 opinion leaders from the United States, Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean - last week issued its new policy report on US-Latin American relations, Convergence and Community: The Americas in 1993. The report calls for the formation of a Western Hemisphere Community of Democracies, offering concrete recommendations to set the building blocks of such a community in place. What follows is a summary of the Dialogue's proposals. Economic integration

The nations of the Americas now have the opportunity to construct an economic community that would make every nation more productive and globally competitive. We propose a five-point program for grasping this opportunity:

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1. The US, Mexico, and Canada should ratify the NAFTA agreement, making sure that appropriate attention is given to the environment and to workers' rights.

2. Latin American and Caribbean governments should intensify efforts to forge sub-regional trade pacts while sustaining domestic economic reform initiatives.

3. The NAFTA partners should begin consultations with other governments to establish criteria, procedures, and timetables for building NAFTA into a hemispheric trade pact. Requirements for membership should include a commitment to democratic practice.

4. NAFTA membership should promptly be extended to Chile and other countries that can meet the entry requirements.

5. The governments of the Americas should establish a new multilateral organization to guide progress toward a hemispheric economic community. Existing regional economic organizations should play prominent roles in the new body, along with private business, trade unions, and other nongovernmental organizations. Collective defense of democracy

To sustain progress toward democratic community, two fundamental challenges must be confronted. First, democratic institutions throughout the Americas must be made more responsive and participatory. Second, the nations of the hemisphere must fortify their resolve and capacity to respond to violations of constitutional order. We propose a six-point strategy:

1. Hemispheric governments must promote negotiated settlements of Latin America's remaining guerrilla conflicts to end the violence and counterviolence that undermine democratic institutions and values. They must also work to stop human- rights abuses by vigorously pursuing the recommendations of credible human- rights organizations.

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2. The governments of the Americas should together take a fresh look at the missions, size, weapons, and costs of their armed forces and establish regional norms to govern civil-military relations.

3. The inter-American community must respond rapidly to breakdowns of democratic rule - as demanded by recent resolutions of the Organization of American States. All nations of the hemisphere must work collectively to repair the democratic process. The capacity of the OAS to take leadership must be strengthened by expanding its new Unit for Democracy.

4. The inter-American community should not try to impose a predetermined solution following a democratic breakdown. In some cases, decisive action might reverse an illegal takeover. But if a rapid turnaround appears unlikely, inter-American efforts should foster negotiations among contending forces to restore constitutional rule.

5. When an illegally constituted government refuses to engage in negotiations to restore democratic order, the inter-American community should consider stronger sanctions. The selection, sequencing, and escalation of sanctions must be orchestrated on a case-by-case basis.

6. Hemispheric action must aim quickly to restore democracy. However distasteful, this may require a compromise solution that accommodates some of the demands of those who illegally took power. Poverty and inequality

The struggle against social and economic inequity is the most important challenge facing the Americas today. Democracy must be anchored in social justice if it is to endure. The Americas must forge a future that is shared by all Americans. We propose seven measures:

1. The countries of the Americas should give as much priority to expanding social and economic opportunities as they do to promoting growth.

2. All governments must sustain sound, growth-oriented macroeconomic policies. Spending must be kept in line with tax revenues and inflation must be controlled.

3. Anti-poverty strategies should emphasize raising the productivity of the poor, particularly women. Investments in health and education are required.

4. Income transfer programs should be targeted to the neediest groups.

5. Local governments, community groups, and private business and professional associations should be intensively involved in the provision of social services.

6. Programs to reduce poverty and inequality must be consistent with macroeconomic stability and therefore should be financed through some combination of increased taxes, the reallocation of existing expenditures, and external aid. Opening opportunities for the poor requires that the better-off pay their taxes.

7. External organizations should put their financial, intellectual, and political muscle behind national anti-poverty programs.

We believe the nations of the Americas have an unparalleled opportunity to shape their common future. It will take many years, but an important start has been made.

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