Remarks as Delivered before AMCHAM
Good afternoon and thank you to AmCham for organizing this event. It is an honor and a pleasure to be here. I am glad to see that everybody was able to get here despite de traffic problems. I hope this is a peaceful day for everyone.
It’s an honor and pleasure to be here. My husband and I arrived in Managua just one month ago; however, we have enjoyed this short time a lot while getting to know, little by little, Nicaragua and the Nicaraguan people. We have been warmly welcomed.
I look forward to working with many of you in the coming months and years. Nicaragua is a country with beautiful lakes and volcanoes and with a vast and rich history.
It’s important to learn from history, but at the same time, we need to build a bridge to the future. The youth of our two countries rely on our ability to achieve this.
When I arrived in Nicaragua, as the United States Ambassador, one of the first meetings I had was with the Board of Directors of AmCham. This is because the economic activities of the United States and AmCham in Nicaragua are very important. Six weeks ago, Ambassador Powers described to you her reflections and hopes for Nicaragua.
President Obama has asked me to continue working in the same direction, based upon the success achieved so far to advance our shared interests and respectfully address points where we differ. Today the United States and Nicaragua has a more mature relationship, based on mutual respect dialogue and respect for the Nicaragua sovereignty. In short, I will work to support a prosperous, secure, and democratic future for Nicaragua. I believe these are the same desires that the Nicaraguan people have for their country. It is up to the people of Nicaragua to choose their own destiny as a people and nation.
The United States and this Embassy will continue to actively cooperate with the Nicaraguan people and government in these areas in a manner that demonstrates mutual respect and friendship. In the recent weeks I have been meeting with government officials and representatives of the private sector and the civil society in order to explore the potential interest in working together in pursuit of these goals. In other words, how to build bridges to the future.
Prosperity, security and democracy are linked. Indeed, it’s not possible to reach one of these goals without achieving the others. For example, for those countries lacking solid institutions and the rule of law, and those facing security challenges it is more complicated to compete to obtain the limited funds available from the direct global foreign assistance, which makes prosperity more difficult to achieve.
Let us work together to strengthen our bridge to the economic prosperity.
I am committed to collaborate with Nicaraguans who are working to improve the economic prospects of all of their countrymen. The United States and Nicaragua have laid the foundation for this bridge, and that foundation is nothing but the CAFTA.
For almost ten years, Nicaragua has received significant trade and investment benefits through CAFTA. As a result, Nicaraguan exports to the United States have increased more than one hundred and sixty percent, creating thousands of new jobs and opportunities for Nicaraguans. In addition, CAFTA has spurred additional investment
AmCham estimated that over 300,000 Nicaraguans are employed because of the American investment being develop here—This is more than the ten percent of the Nicaraguan labor force!
I am really proud that the American companies lead in corporate governance, business ethics, environmental practices, worker safety, and community involvement.
We want to encourage you to continue upholding these high standards. As in doing so, you improve the overall business climate. Increasing the Central American integration throughout Central America is also key. The Central American region must advance collectively.
Prosperity, security, opportunities and challenges are inextricably linked. This means reducing tarrifs, investing in borders, streamlining customs, and partnering with each other on issues like road and energy. And, investing in infrastructure, including bridges.
The world does not stand still, as the results of the recently concluded Trans Pacific Partnership agreement demonstrate, so I encourage the Government of Nicaragua, the private sector, and civil society organizations to consider how best to use CAFTA and other tools to increase competitiveness and to reduce poverty to reflect these new realities.
Underlying the economic bridge we build together are our assistance programs, most of which are designed to achieve broad-based sustainable economic growth. We will continue to work with local and international organizations and Nicaraguan government entities to achieve positive results for the Nicaraguan people.
I am committed to assist Nicaraguan farmers improve their productivity and their livelihoods. I have recently met with the Ministry of Agriculture to discuss how the United States can support Nicaraguan efforts to help small farmers, in particular. With the collaboration of our partners, we provide food for over 100,000 Nicaraguan school children.
We have also increased animal and plant health, improve farming efficiency resulting in increased crop production, and develop strategies to be more financially sustainable. We have seen areas where Nicaraguans have made excellent use of the assistance we provided and have graduated from some of our assistance programs.
For instance, for several years, the United States worked with Nicaraguan farmers, cooperatives, and the Ministry of Agriculture on programs which allow Nicaraguans to export fresh pitaya and mangoes to the United States.
The Ministry now runs these programs without our involvement. As a result of this bilateral cooperation, Nicaragua exported over 4 million dollars in these crops. An educated workforce is a baseline requirement for economic prosperity and key to strengthening the economic bridge.
With employees without the proper skills to fill jobs, investors will be reluctant to commit new projects. The government of the United States will continue to assist Nicaraguans who assist youth since strong, innovative and well prepared youth are key to a successful and prosperous future.
To ensure inclusiveness in education, I will continue to focus on improving reading skills for the ethnic and linguistic minority populations of the Caribbean Coast, in order for them to have a solid foundation for learning.
We will also work with community leaders and parents to create positive learning environments for children and youth.
I will continue to collaborate with Nicaraguans who promote opportunities for women, since we know this is key to the economic prosperity of families and nations.
To help those Nicaraguans to attain their educational goals, we are increasing our collaboration with those organizations providing technical education in the Atlantic Coast.
We will look to partner with the Government of Nicaragua, the private sector, and civil society organizations to create a network of centers which help small businesses develop and export, and providing technical vocational training.
The other Central American countries, Mexico and some in South America already have these centers, and this is the time for Nicaragua get connected to this network of innovators. As I said before, security is fundamental for economic prosperity. The United States will continue to collaborate with Government of Nicaragua to strengthen the bridge to a secure future for Nicaragua.
I will continue to work with the relevant Nicaraguan entities to make the Nicaraguan people and their visitors to this beautiful country safer.
That is why we work closely with the police to stop international trafficking of people, drugs, and arms.
We also work with local and national law enforcement authorities to strengthen citizen security, decrease violence, and create alternatives for at-risk youth.
This collaboration can be a model for how our two nations can work together on a wide range of shared concerns.
Nicaragua is safer than neighboring countries. But as many people have told me, this is not sufficient for the Nicaraguan people or international investors. It is necessary to address juridical or legal security as well as physical security in order to achieve a prosperous, secure, and democratic Nicaragua.
Investors, both international and Nicaraguan, need to feel confident that contracts are enforceable and that they are competing on a level playing field.
Let’s work together to build a bridge to democracy. The United States is committed to the principle that governments should reflect the will of the people and protect basic rights.
We also acknowledge that all countries do not have the exact same democratic system. However, all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent; freedom to live as you choose; freedom of the press.
Those are not just U.S. ideas, they are universal human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere. I will be a strong proponent for these democratic values and look forward to working to uphold these values by respectfully engaging with political leaders across the spectrum both inside and outside of government, the business community, and civil society to uphold them.
The people of Nicaragua and the United States share a mutual interest in Nicaragua having a strong and sustainable democracy, although there remain key areas of disagreement that I will continue to address in an open and respectful manner.
The United States and other countries have expressed concern over the state of democracy in Nicaragua. Around the world the United States has spoken out strongly on the importance of the people of every country having the right to select their government and leaders in an open and transparent manner.
Finally, a primary responsibility at every U.S. embassy is to ensure the safety and security of U.S. citizens and this will be at the top of my priority list.
Many U.S. citizens are proud to call themselves Nicaraguan-American and increasing numbers of tourists from the United States are visiting the beautiful beaches, historic sites, and green spaces of Nicaragua, and to do business here. I also look forward to visiting these sites myself, (and Nicaraguans have made excellent suggestions through Facebook on places I should visit while traveling all over the country). I am a strong believer in facilitating legitimate travel, so we will continue to strive to keep wait times for a visa appointment short and provide quality and efficient service to all potential travelers to the United States.
In closing, there are many opportunities and challenges ahead, which I believe we should face together. We share the interests of many Nicaraguans who wish a prosperous, secure and democratic Nicaragua.
I am very pleased to be in Nicaragua, and I look forward to continuing strengthening and expanding our relationship based on mutual respect and shared interests.
Thank you very much.