The aim of this fourth Summit of the Americas is to find a way to use increased employment opportunities as a tool to ease poverty in the Americas.
President Bush has been pushing the benefits of trade to create jobs and increase prosperity. White House National Security Advisor Steven Hadley says the president's focus is very much in keeping with the summit theme.
"The purpose of the summit is for democratically elected leaders to get together and reaffirm the fact that there is really a shared vision for the hemisphere that is based on democracy and free markets and free trade as the best way to get the benefits of those principles down to enhance the prosperity and the livelihoods of the people of the hemisphere," said Mr. Hadley.
But there are differences among the 34 countries attending this summit on the best and fairest way to boost trade. Mr. Bush has embraced the vision of a free trade zone of the Americas, which would surpass the European Union in size. But opponents say a hemispheric-wide free trade pact would open the way for corporations to take advantage of the poor.
The president has acknowledged negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas are stalled, telling reporters just prior to this trip that the priority at the moment is the current round of global trade talks. But Mr. Hadley says the White House is not giving up on a hemispheric agreement.
"I think the point the president made, which is the right one, is, we have a bold free trade agenda, and it's something we pursue on a bilateral basis, on a regional basis and in terms of a global basis," he added.
The White House National Security Advisor indicates the president will not be bringing specific new aid proposals to the summit, but will encourage others to look more to trade as a tool to lift their economies.
"And the big opportunity to enhance prosperity in the region is the trade agenda, because, as you know, through free trade and private investments, the leverage you get in terms of economic growth and enhancing prosperity really dwarfs the impact of specific aid programs," he explained.
Tens of thousands of protesters are expected to take to the streets of Mar del Plata during the summit. Some will be demonstrating against U.S. policy in Iraq. But many will be taking issue with the president's international economic policies as well.
Smaller, though significant, protests are expected when Mr. Bush travels on to Brasilia for talks Sunday with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The president will also visit Panama before returning home late Monday.