Opening Statement for the Pathways to Prosperity Conference
Good morning. It is a pleasure to join you for this fifth Ministerial meeting of Pathways to Prosperity. I would like to thank the government of Colombia for their gracious hospitality. Your country’s own pathway toward prosperity and peace is an inspiration to the world and a credit to your leadership.
Latin America’s record of democratic development and social advancement stands as a model for a world whose citizens are reaching for dignity and economic hope. The success of the Americas is measured not just by the growth of its GDP, but by the number and strength of its middle classes, rights, freedoms and democratic institutions.
The intellectual heart of democratic development is the recognition that these successes—political, economic and social—can and must be mutually reinforcing. That is why together we have worked to build societies where the benefits of trade and investment are broadly felt, where rights and rules are respected, where what you know is more important than who you know, where democratic good governance is a force for economic growth; and where financial and social inclusion ensure that even struggling communities produce successful men and women.
Many in the Americas have already found their own Pathways to Prosperity, but many more can benefit from the dialogue and partnerships we are here to build and strengthen today.
I am hopeful that, by sharing ideas, innovative business practices and social policies and lessons learned, every country here—including my own—can find ways to better serve our people. Local successes that affect several hundred can be leveraged into sustainable change for millions throughout the region. That is what brings us together.
And as Colombia has shown, in word and deed, democratic development works best when the work is shared: when governments, businesses, civil society, educational institutions and ordinary citizens work together. I congratulate Colombia for linking the Pathways Ministerial with the Americas Competitiveness Forum, or ACF. This continues an important innovation made by the Dominican Republic last year, and one that will be carried forward by Panama in 2013. The goals of ACF and Pathways are distinct but complementary: ACF provides a forum for political, economic, and business leaders to exchange ideas about how to thrive in an increasingly competitive global economy. Pathways seeks to ensure that all our people reap the benefits of this exchange.
Let me highlight two particular areas of interest to the United States.
First, we should be focused on training and financing small-scale entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses and reach markets around the world. Through Pathways, we hope to build on the successful U.S. model of small business development centers to empower businessmen and women in Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico and across the region. Last April, President Obama launched the Small Business Network of the Americas to link more than 2,000 small business development centers throughout the Western Hemisphere. And as we offer our own stories, we also know that innovation flows north, and we are eager to learn from your experiences.
Second, we should sustain our focus on women entrepreneurs, which has become a signature accomplishment of this forum. We know that investing in women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises is one of the best ways to achieve our economic, financial and social goals. The Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas (WEAmericas) initiative, launched by Secretary Clinton and her counterparts at the Summit earlier this year, uses public-private partnerships to increase women’s economic participation and improve women’s access to markets, finance, and training and networks. This effort builds on the progress Pathways has made through the Pathways Access Initiative (PAI), providing training to women entrepreneurs through WeConnect International, and bringing U.S. businesses together with women-owned businesses in Peru. Today, the Colombian women entrepreneurs of the Colempresarias network will have the opportunity to break further barriers, by displaying their products for this gathering and connecting with private sector partners tomorrow to increase their exports.
The fundamental message I want to leave you with is one of optimism about what we can accomplish if we work together. We are eager to share ideas and come together around a Declaration and Plan of Action to guide our efforts in the year ahead. We are excited about the new Pathways Clearinghouse announced today to expand our network of stakeholders and further engage private businesses. We value this forum.
There is an old proverb, sometimes quoted in American politics, that says: “If you want to go fast, go by yourself. If you want to go far, go with others.” We have already come a long way together. This important meeting is another reminder of how much further we can go, how much more we can accomplish together. Let us use this moment to redouble our efforts to build better societies and to leave behind, for our children, a better Hemisphere and a better world. Thank you.