Speech by Assistant Secretary Romero to Open the XV Meeting of the Summit Implementation Review Group

October 29, 1998, Headquarters of the Pan-American Health Organization,

Washington D.C.

Only six months have passed since our presidents and prime ministers met in Santiago and approved an ambitious Plan of Action. Nonetheless, we have made substantial progress implementing some of the initiatives in that Plan of Action. At this pace, we will have dozens of significant accomplishments to showcase at our next Summit meeting in Canada.

I am most familiar with progress on issues that involve foreign ministries. For example, progress made toward negotiating a convention on Transparency of Arms Acquisition is encouraging. With continued effort, a draft convention should be ready for our defense ministers to endorse when they meet in Colombia in early December.

I am also encouraged by the progress achieved so far on designing a Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism to evaluate reductions in cultivation, trafficking and consumption of illegal drugs. Much remains to be done on such a difficult topic, but with diligence we can fulfill the mandate given us by our leaders.

As well, the trade negotiations have made a solid start. All nine negotiating groups and the three specialized committees have completed their first meetings and laid out their program of work for the next twelve months. We are laying the foundation for the economy of the 21st century and, with persistence, our grandchildren will thank us.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has named the first ever advocate for press freedom, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

On terrorism, the Argentine government has circulated a substantive draft declaration for endorsement at the Second Inter-American Specialized Conference on Terrorism next month in Mar Del Plata. We strongly support the proposals to create an Inter-American Committee on Terrorism, as well as the proposed guidelines for responding to terrorist incidents and for hindering fundraising by terrorist groups.

As I said, these are all topics I am involved with at the State Department. But I understand there has been significant progress on other initiatives as well. I look forward to learning about advances in the areas of education, labor, health and civil society later this morning.

That is one of the useful aspects of these SIRG meetings. They give us an opportunity to learn about the accomplishments and challenges facing our colleagues in the other ministries as they tackle their items in our ambitious hemispheric agenda.

As Americans, and I mean that in the full sense of the word, we continue to demonstrate a remarkable ability to cooperate on defining a vision for this American hemisphere and on implementing a concrete plan of action for achieving this vision. For that reason, I am disappointed to see elements of the old North/South rhetoric and distrust creeping into preparations for a critical conference starting next month in Buenos Aires, the Fourth Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

At Santiago, our presidents and prime ministers pledged to "Encourage the Parties (to that Convention) to work toward achieving the objectives and goals" of the Convention. At COP IV, this hemisphere has a chance to demonstrate to the rest of the world our ability to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Argentine government has proposed an agenda item for COP IV to discuss the concept of developing countries adopting binding limits on their emissions so that they could join the community of countries that will buy and sell emission permits. But China, India and other countries from outside this hemisphere have denounced this proposal notwithstanding the fact that countries would take on these commitments voluntarily. The U.S. government strongly supports this proposed agenda item so that there can be a discussion about the efforts of developing countries to reduce the growth in their emissions. The proposed international emission trading system will reduce the costs of compliance and increase efficiency in those countries which choose to limit their emissions. Clearly, this creates a "'win-win" situation for both the global environment and the global economy.

The Central American governments have suggested ideas for implementing the "Clean Development Mechanism" proposed by Brazil at COP III. The Parties to the Convention agreed to include the Brazilian idea in the Kyoto Protocol.

Nevertheless, some countries are now resisting efforts to define the mechanism at COP IV, suggesting that this task be put off to the future. Furthermore, the European countries are suggesting that limits be imposed on reductions in greenhouse gas emissions achieved through international trading or through the Clean Development Mechanism. Such limits would only hurt the developing countries participating in the Clean Development Mechanism and would reduce the efficiency gained from international trading of emission permits.

The governments of the Americas should arrive at Buenos Aires prepared to demonstrate to the rest of the world that we can achieve significant progress at COP IV. We should not let the quaint ideologies of the 1960's and 70's poison negotiations at COP IV. The sooner we can agree on how these flexibility mechanisms should be brought into practice, the more effective we can be at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. The rapidly increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a global problem that needs a global solution. All of our economies are vulnerable to the violent weather and increased drought and flooding that global warming is expected to generate. I hope our cooperation will be a model to the rest of the world on how to cooperate on confronting this enormously complicated problem.

I must conclude my remarks with a cautionary note. Despite the substantial progress we have already achieved in implementing the Santiago Plan of Action, the current financial crisis means we have to work faster and harder. We must accelerate efforts to integrate our economies, strengthen the rule of law, and open our markets in order to minimize the harmful effects of the financial crisis that started in Asia. To the extent that our economies are hurt by the global crisis, our governments will come under increasing pressures to retrench, to erect trade barriers, and block capital flows. Economic recession in our hemisphere could even threaten democratic institutions and social stability. We cannot afford to be complacent in our efforts to achieve the goals of the Summit of the Americas.

We will have a chance to advance the Summit objectives at several important hemispheric meetings scheduled during the next six months. Our Secretary of Transportation will be hosting a ministerial meeting on the "Hemispheric Transportation Initiatives" in December. The Chileans are hosting a Symposium on "Strengthening of Integrity and Civic Ethics" next month. The Colombians are hosting the Defense Ministerial of the Americas in December. And the Peruvians are hosting a meeting of the Justice Ministers early next year. Consequently, we will have a full and positive report to give to our foreign ministers when they meet to review the implementation process next June in Guatemala.