Ninth Conference of Spouses of Heads of State and Government of the Americas


Linking the Americas: Canada’s Hemisphere Summit Office

We are becoming una gran familia. A family of different cultures, of different languages, and of many races, but a family nonetheless with shared values and shared goals...a family that cares for each other, that reaches out to help and encourage each other...that understands that our land is the hemisphere from the Yukon to the Tierra del Fuego...

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien

Canada’s future is directly linked — geographically, economically and politically — to that of our hemispheric partners. Together, we stand at a significant moment in history. We face the collective challenge of transforming the region’s economic, social and political promise into a more prosperous, secure and free future for all citizens of the Americas.

The period 1999-2001 will see Canada move to the centre of the hemispheric stage as we host a series of major inter-American events. Linking these events together and co-ordinating their activities is the Hemisphere Summit Office, which was established in 1998 by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The events leading up to Canada hosting the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001 began with this summer’s celebration of youth, sport and culture at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, where Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy launched the AmericasCanada Web site. A number of other events will follow the Pan American Games:

The Ninth Conference of the Spouses of Heads of State and Government of the Americas (September 29 - October 1, 1999, Ottawa)

We were asked to host this event, confirming the fact that Canada is considered a full hemispheric partner, whose host activities will help to reinforce our regional influence. Canada’s leadership role will help to advance our agenda on numerous issues, including health, child development, education, and gender equality.

Americas Business Forum (November 1 - 3, Toronto)

Canada, as chair of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) negotiations through October 1999, will organize the Fifth Americas Business Forum (ABF) meeting immediately prior to the next hemispheric trade ministerial. The ABF allows the private sector, through dialogue with trade ministers, to participate in designing the FTAA. Specifically, it will generate concrete, practical proposals to facilitate hemispheric commerce. The ABF will also enhance the development of strategic international business contacts. While organized by business associations, the ABF requires significant federal support and funding.

Free Trade Area of the Americas Ministerial (November 3 - 4, 1999, Toronto)

Canada is one of the major industrialized nations that is most dependent on trade. The trade sector accounts for one out of every three Canadian jobs. We have been a strong advocate of the FTAA as an historical opportunity to promote regional prosperity and increased Canadian business activity and employment. The FTAA countries, excluding the United States, absorbed Canadian exports exceeding $7 billion in 1997. Canadian direct investment in this group quadrupled to $25 billion over the preceding five years. The FTAA will offer Canadian firms improved access to these markets, better investment protection and more reliable dispute settlement procedures. As FTAA chair, Canada is able to provide the impetus required for "concrete progress" by 2000, as stipulated by trade ministers. Such Canadian leadership is imperative, given the lack of fast-track negotiating authority in the U.S. and its inhibiting effect on FTAA endeavours.

Organization of American States General Assembly (June 4 - 6, 2000, Windsor)

The Organization of American States (OAS), the main forum for hemispheric policy discussions and follow-up, is a leading participant in the implementation of many Summit commitments, including those related to the FTAA. It is an emerging regional force for strengthening democracy and encouraging sustainable development. Particularly important for Canada, the OAS is assisting in the regional eradication of anti-personnel landmines. Canada has actively supported reforms intended to expand overall OAS capacity to support common hemispheric endeavours. For the first time, in June 2000, Canada will host the OAS General Assembly. This event brings OAS foreign ministers together to approve work plans for the following year. Canada, celebrating its 10th anniversary as an OAS member and first as OAS chair, will use this Assembly to build consensus for its Summit policy priorities.

The Summit of the Americas (2001, Quebec City)

The first two Summits, in Miami (1994) and Santiago (1998), fostered development of hemisphere-wide, practical co-operation on addressing a range of priority issues that mesh well with Canadian economic and human security priorities. The Action Plan adopted in Santiago covers, for example, economic integration and trade liberalization, improvements in education, consolidation of democratization, strengthening of human rights protection, and reduction of poverty and discrimination.

In 2001, presidents and prime ministers will convene at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City to chart a common course as we enter the next millennium. As Summit chair, Canada will need to lead in developing the agenda and providing guidance, support and facilities for preparatory activities. These range from organizing and hosting ministerial conferences to holding technical meetings on logistics, parallel activities, and the like. This represents a major undertaking requiring co-ordination and co-operation among many federal departments, provincial and municipal governments, business, indigenous organizations, and civil society.

Canada and its fellow nations of the Americas, while richly diverse in culture and tradition, share fundamental values, hopes and aspirations. We all have an interest in strengthening peace, consolidating democracy, fostering sustainable development, reinforcing individual and collective security, eradicating poverty, discrimination and disease, promoting gender equality, and bringing indigenous peoples into the economic, social and political mainstream. Our citizens share a desire to improve their own lives and to bequeath a brighter future to their children. Building closer ties will multiply our strength, and will help us to construct a true community where all can live, work and grow. As we enter the new millennium, we can, indeed, become the family of the Americas — una gran familia.