A Summit of the Americas was held in Miami, Florida, on December 9-11, 1994, and was attended by U.S. President Bill Clinton and the heads of 34 other participating governments. The primary purpose of the summit was to plan for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) to be established by the year 2005. The meeting addressed a set of 23 initiatives and resulted in a plan of action designed to ensure the implementation of the initiatives. The goal was to establish a new set of relationships among the nations and the people of the Americas.

The Miami summit made progress toward an FTAA, but it left a great deal of work to be done. The work is to be accomplished through an inter-American system supported by three "pillars" or sets of actors. The first pillar is international organizations. The three named in the plan of action are the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the Organization of American States (OAS), and the United Nations Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). A Tripartite Cooperation Committee established in the plan of action coordinates their activities. The second pillar includes government ministries and various working groups established through ministerial meetings. The third pillar is made up of non-state actors. (Some commentators refer to them as the nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs.) They include nonprofit groups and private businesses. The plan of action provides for participation by the non-state actors with respect to 14 of the 23 initiatives. The various actors have been working to implement the plan of action through meetings held since 1994.

Four years after the Miami summit, another Summit of the Americas was held in Santiago, Chile, on April 18-19, 1998. At that meeting, various actors met, measured their progress, and made further plans to achieve their goal of an FTAA by the year 2005. This article provides an overview of the two summits.


SUMMITS IN 1956 AND 1967.

The Miami and Chile summits were not the first ever held in the Western Hemisphere. Summits were held in 1956 and 1967, but they produced few results. In contrast, the 1994 and 1998 summits are producing visible changes, due to the fact that the governments of the Western Hemisphere and their policies changed substantially during recent decades.


In the 1950s and 1960s, at least half of the leaders of countries of the Western Hemisphere were backed by military organizations; democracy was not the "norm" in countries of Central and South America. In contrast, by 1993, most countries of the Western Hemisphere were democratic, albeit to varying degrees. Cuba is the only stronghold of communism and dictatorship today, and it was the only country of this hemisphere that was not included in the Miami and Chile summits.


As governments in Latin America have changed, U.S. policy toward Latin American countries has shifted. In the 1950s and 1960s, U.S. relations with Latin America focused on U.S. aid programs and concerns about U.S. national security. There was a sharp division between the industrial Northern Hemisphere, including the United States and Canada, and the Southern Hemisphere. With the end of the Cold War, the United States began to shift its efforts to policies designed to support democracy and human rights in Central and South America. The United States also began to shift its economic policies and became receptive to bilateral and regional trade agreements. Thus, by 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was adopted by the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The United States had come to view Mexico as an important political ally, and trade partner.


By the 1994, the Western Hemisphere was covered by a variety of bilateral and multilateral free trade areas and trading blocs, each of which continues to operate as we enter the 21st century. They include at least five major groups: (1) the Southern Cone Common Market, more commonly known as Mercosur (the Mercado Comiun del Sur), (2) NAFTA, (3) the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), (4) the System of Central American Integration (SICA), and (5) the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).



The Miami summit had various goals, only one of which was to establish the FTAA. The FTAA is designed to unite the Western Hemisphere and its various regional trade areas into one hemisphericwide free trade area by the year 2005. The area has tremendous potential for expanded trade. For example, the region is the fastest-growing market for U.S. exports, and U.S. exports to Latin America are expected to exceed its exports to Europe by the year 2000. An FTAA will include more than 800 million people and have a gross domestic product (GDP) of over US$7 trillion, an amount that is almost one-third of the world's GDP. Other topics and goals of the summit relate to supporting democracy, dealing with poverty and discrimination, the need for education, and the need for sustainable development.


The Miami summit produced a declaration of principles and a plan of action. The plan of action included 23 initiatives and more than 150 action items. The initiatives and the action items provide an implementation strategy for the new inter-American system. The initiatives and the action items, in turn, were divided into four sets.

The first is "Preserving and Strengthening the Community of Democracies of the Americas." Brazil and Canada are coordinating a working group that covers matters including reforming electoral laws, supervision of elections, local conflict resolution, and peace-building in Haiti and Central America.

The second is the goal of creating the FTAA by the year 2005. To achieve that goal, the trade ministers of the Western Hemisphere have met on a continuing basis. For example, they met in Denver, Colorado, in June 1996; Cartagena, Colombia, in March 1996; Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in May 1997; and San Jose, Costa Rica, in March 1998. Negotiations for the FTAA were officially launched at the Santiago, Chile, summit in 1998.

The third set of initiatives is designed to eradicate poverty and discrimination in the Western Hemisphere. Much of the work being done in this area is being done by international, nongovernmental organizations. Universal access to health services is one initiative, and is being coordinated by the Pan-American Health Organization. The OAS, ECLAC, and the IADB have worked together on issues related to the status of women. They are working to identify needs and develop strategies to meet those needs. Educational needs were included within this group of initiatives at the Miami summit, but they were been identified as a separate set for the Santiago summit.

A fourth set of initiatives related to the need for sustainable development, with emphasis on energy, pollution prevention, and biodiversity. Two energy initiatives were jointly led by Venezuela (through its Ministry of Energy and Petroleos de Venezuela) and the U.S. government (through its Department of Energy).

AFTERMATH, 1994-98.

During the four years following the Miami summit, results were mixed according to Richard Feinberg, a former Clinton adviser on Latin America and the person who is viewed as the "architect" of the Miami summit. He asserted that progress was made on the war on drugs and money laundering in Latin America, but the needs to strengthen democracy, protect human rights, improve education, and protect biodiversity need greater efforts.

Further, in the aftermath of the Miami summit, many countries of Latin America believe that their commitment and work toward establishing the FTAA have been greater than those of the United States. For example, at the close of the Miami summit, the United States, Canada, and Mexico announced their goal that Chile was to become the next member of (an expanded) NAFrA by the year 1996. That goal, however, has not been met. Chile stipulated that "fast track" legislation in the United States was a prerequisite to its negotiations with the United States. (Fast track legislation allows the U.S. president to negotiate a trade agreement and present it to the U.S. Congress for a "yes or no" vote, without amendment. It was in effect in the United States from 1974 to 1994.) Since fast track legislation expired in 1994, the U.S. Congress has refused to reauthorize it, and negotiations with Chile have stalled. Thus, the United States is viewed as "dragging its feet" with respect to Chile.


The Santiago, Chile, summit was held April 18-19, 1998. At that summit, three of the original four sets of initiatives were addressed, with the addition of consideration of education as a separate, fourth set of initiatives. First, progress in the area of democracy was documented and commitment to the various initiatives was reaffirmed. The IADB, the World Bank, and the Agency for International Development (AID) promised a total of $5.9 billion over a period of three years to support reform of justice systems, improve working conditions (including elimination of child labor), strengthen local governments, and other initiatives.

Second, in the area of economic integration, negotiations for the FTAA were launched. The IADB, the World Bank, and AID pledged a total of $18.8 billion over a three-year period. Those funds will be used to promote stable financial markets, protect the environment, develop clean energy sources, promote integrated transportation and telecommunication systems, as well as other projects.

Third, poverty-related initiatives were addressed. Discussion focused on assistance to micro enterprises, the need for poverty registration for the poor, the needs of women and other vulnerable groups, health care including immunization projects and the need for clean drinking water, and programs to fight hunger and malnutrition. The IADB, the World Bank, and AID pledged a total of US$12.5 billion for three years to work to meet these needs.

Fourth, education issues were addressed in a fourth set of initiatives, separate from poverty and discrimination issues. The need to strengthen primary and secondary education through teacher training, provide more text books, increase international exchange, and other programs was emphasized. To help fund projects, the IADB and the World Bank agreed to supply US$8.3 billion in loans over a three-year period.

Sustainable development, which was one of the four main initiatives at the Miami summit, was not a major area of discussion at the Santiago summit. It was dealt with separately, however, at the Santa Cruz Summit of the Americas on Sustainable Development held in December 1996, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Representatives of all 34 countries involved in the Miami and Santiago summits participated. They produced a plan of action that included 65 action items to be implemented in the hemisphere and to be funded, at least in part, by the Work Bank, OAS, and IADB.


The Summit of the Americas in Miami in 1994 and the summit in Santiago in 1998 produced an ambitious plan of action covering democracy, education, economic integration, poverty and discrimination, and sustainable development. Economic integration, with the goal of an FT A A by the year 2005, was the centerpiece of the two summits and the goal that received the most media attention. And, as we move into the 21st century, trade integration is likely to continue to be the yardstick most frequently used to measure the results of the two summits. Yet, the challenge that lies ahead is for the 34 nations to move forward to meet the multiple important goals of the two summits.

[ Paulette L. Stenzel ]


Carter, Tom. "Miami Summit 'Architect' Sees Gains: Feinberg Urges 'Fast Track' for Clinton." Washington Times, 6 May 1997, A15.

Feinberg, Richard E. Summitry in the Americas: A Progress Report. Institute for International Economics, 1997.

"The Road to the Summit: From Miami to Santiago." Available from www.americasnet.netleng/index.html .

Robins, Linda, and others. "Reaching for New Heights." U.S. News and World Report, 12 December 1994, 68.

Rosenberg, Robin, and Steve Stein, eds. Advancing the Miami Process: Civil Society and the Summit of the Americas. North-South Center Press, University of Miami, 1995.

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