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Crossing cultural frontiers.

A century ago the republics of the Americas were separated by geography as much as they were united by it. In the late nineteenth century, travel within the same country was in many cases still something of an adventure. And except for migrants from Europe in search of freedom and a better life, international travel was relatively rare. Regional contacts were few and time-consuming. The Washington conference that created the International Union of American Republics in 1890 lasted twelve months.

Today geographic and cultural distances are shrinking under the impact of a veritable explosion of contacts. Not only have jet aircraft and trucks accelerated the pace once set by canals, ocean liners and railroads, but electronics can now project sounds and images everywhere, instantaneously, and seemingly without effort. The flow of information has suddenly become so rapid that events are thrust upon us faster than we can assign them meaning.

And today's chain events are fueling future transformations. It is undoubtedly safe to say that the growing commercial, cultural and human interchanges that now characterize our Hemisphere are limited in comparison to what lies ahead.

Just in our own lifetimes, the Caribbean states have won their independence and the Latin American states have shed their caudillos. Both the end of colonialism and the fall of personalist dictators have facilitated regional cooperation. With a time lapse for incredulity, these fundamental changes are having an impact in the United States as well. As the smoke of conflict in Central America has begun to clear, many in the United States have begun to realize that something special is happening in the Hemisphere--that political systems may no longer be mutually incompatible, that the Americas need no longer be torn apart by competing economic interests between north and south, and that common global interests in industrialization and agriculture may now be cultivated.

These perceptions are what have made possible U.S. President George Bush's long term proposal for the Hemisphere, the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative. We often reduce the President's initiative to the bureaucratic alphabet soup of "EAI." It is, however, a proposal based on an optimistic and futuristic vision of the Americas. At its heart is an instinct that, over the next generation, our increasing intimacy can be turned to mutual advantage.

The EAI is, in its specifics, a catalyst for trade and reform. It is neither a traditional aid program nor a refurbished Alliance for Progress. Such programs depended heavily on transfers of financial resources from one government to another. The EAI, rather, is best understood as a belief on the part of the President of the United States that the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have reached a stage in their development, democratization, and international relations which should enable them to assume an increasingly competitive and productive role in the world economy.

Just as importantly, the EAI is a regional initiative with a global objective. It is not an attempt to create a new and exlusive club. Rather, it seeks to use the combined weight and negotiating power of the Western Hemisphere on the world stage to keep markets open and to prevent the consolidation of a protectionist Europe or a protectionist Asia. Certainly there are implicit reactionary pressures created by EC '92 and the leadership of Japan in Asia. But to draw the conclusion that the EAI reflects a desire by the United States to retreat to "Fortress America"--defined this time as "Fortress America"--misinterprets the outlook of an overwhelming majority of citizens of the United States.

We estadounidenses (to use the one word that clearly differentiates us from the citizens of other states of the Americas) prize our hemispheric relations. At various times in our history we have shown that we can give preference to our neighbors. But since World War II, our basic vision, like that of our national leaders, has been global, not regional. We are not interested in limiting ourselves to this Hemisphere. And we are not interested in limiting our neighbors to it either. The EAI in no way conflicts with the opportunities other countries of the Americas may have to maintain or expand their trade with Europe and Asia.

The Organization of American States recently showed how regional solidarity can be a force for global economic progress. The occasion was the near-collapse last December of the Uruguay Round of GATT talks. First, just before Christmas, the Permanent Council reached a consensus on the common interest of the Hemisphere. Then, in February, Secretary General Joao Clemente Baena Soares visited Geneva and Brussels to ask the European Community to muster greater flexibility to reduce protectionism and liberalize trade opportunities for all.

Looking ahead, the entry of Canada, Guyana, and Belize as full members makes the OAS more fully inter-American than ever. No longer should the United States or any other individual member state consider the OAS merely as an adjunct to bilateral policies; we have reached a stage at which we can--and I believe should--begin to forge a truly inter-American set of activities and perspectives.

And that will be none too soon. The spread of television is bringing a cross-pollination of cultures. Spanish language TV is now available broadly in the United States, and English language TV is available broadly in Latin America. The movements of population within the Hemisphere are giving human faces to our accelerating interdependence. Against the sweep of political change and economic integration, my own feeling is that we are witnessing the birth of a new culture--a new culture that is highly dynamic and, in social terms, the most democratic the world has known.

History, however, is far from ending. We must still ensure that our increasingly interdependent Hemisphere is also one in which freedom and the individual and cultural distinctiveness that give it meaning are not lost. In the nineteenth century, the Mexican Benito Juarez gave us a seminal definition: "La paz es el respeto al derecho ajeno" ("peace is respect for the right of others"). In a region in which the "ajenos" ("aliens") are ever fewer, we are now in such proximity that we must learn to treat each other as we would ourselves. To paraphrase Juarez, it is almost as though "la paz es el respeto al derecho propio," taking that to mean the development of laws we all respect because they shelter our own individuality within the broader community.

Ambassador Luigi R. Einaudi is the Permanent Representative of the United States to the OAS.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, regional trade policy
Author:Einaudi, Luigi R.
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Mar 1, 1991
Words:1079
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