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Summit of Americas' Final Declaration Reflects Disagreements - 2004-01-14

In Monterrey, Mexico leaders of 34 nations from the Western Hemisphere, including President Bush, ended a two-day special Summit of the Americas on Tuesday with renewed commitments to fight terrorism, corruption and poverty. President Bush used the venue to advance his proposals and to enhance relations with some regional neighbors.

In the end, the United States did not get all that it had wanted from this summit, but the meeting did provide the opportunity for President Bush to meet with regional counterparts in formal sessions and in one-on-one encounters. There were obvious points of disagreement during the two days of meetings, but the host, Mexican President Vicente Fox, says the overall tone was constructive.

He said the discussions often included sharp differences of opinion and ideology, but that they were always characterized by respect for each person and each person's point of view.

One of the sharpest divides was over the issues of free trade and the fight against poverty. President Bush and President Fox extolled the benefits of free trade and referred to the expansion in commerce that has resulted from the North American Free Trade Agreement that unites their nations and Canada.

Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva argued that regional leaders must make the effort to reduce poverty their primary goal. He said the gap between rich and poor in Latin America is growing and that free trade alone will not resolve this problem.

There was also disagreement over a U.S. proposal to bar leaders of corrupt nations from participation in future summits. Some nations were concerned over what criteria would be used to determine whether a nation was corrupt.

In the final declaration, summit participants simply agreed to fight against corruption through consultations. The declaration also side-stepped the trade issue, leaving that for another time and place. The closing statement did include pledges of further regional cooperation in the effort to stop terrorism.

During the summit, President Bush also discussed his new immigration proposal with President Fox, who backed the idea. President Bush also invited his Mexican counterpart to his ranch in Texas for a bilateral meeting in March.

President Bush also had an opportunity to meet with Canada's new Prime Minister, Paul Martin, to discuss the mad cow disease problem and other issues. Mr. Bush also announced that Canada would be able to bid on future reconstruction projects in Iraq that are valued at more than $4.5 billion.