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Remarks to a Joint Session of the Congress in Brasilia, Brazil

December 03, 1990

Mr. President of the National Congress and Mr. President of the Chamber of Deputies; and to our two most articulate speakers, Senator Tito and Deputy Fiuza; and Mr. Acting President of the Supreme Court; esteemed Papal Nuncio and members of the diplomatic corps; Mr. Archbishop; Honorable Ministers of State and Governors of the Federal District; and honorable Deputies and Senators: It is a privilege, it is an honor to join you in this great hall of democracy.

My thoughts today could have no better forum than this National Congress; my words, no better audience than the people of Brazil. We meet at an extraordinary moment in our shared history, a time of serious challenges and important choices that calls for mutual respect, candor, and collective will. I've met with many Latin and Caribbean leaders. And beyond any single issue that we've discussed, all of us have been galvanized by a new era of hope and opportunity throughout the Americas, especially here in Brazil.

By pioneering bold new economic reforms and consolidating its democracy, Brazil today is poised to enter the 21st century as a leader among nations. That is a tribute to a leader whose friendship and vision I value and respect, a man who represents a new generation of democratic leadership now sweeping across Latin America, your dynamic new President, Fernando Collor de Mello. President Collor has spoken eloquently of Brazil's rightful place at the table of the First World, and I agree. I believe it is time, in fact, to end the false distinctions between the First World and Third World that have too long limited political and economic relations in the Americas. Let us instead speak of the New World.

This hemisphere has always found strength in diversity. After all, here I stand, addressing Portuguese speakers in English, because of an Italian sailing on behalf of Spain five centuries ago. What we hold in common transcends borders and translates into any language. The nations of the Americas all struggled and gained independence from the old ways of the Old World, ended the injustice of slavery and colonialism, and built republics of promise and renewal around the dignity and the power of the individual and the rule of law.

Now, as we approach the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of Americas and the arrival of Cabral's Portuguese fleet in Brazil, this is our moment to chart the course for the New World, a course of freedom, a course of democracy, a course of prosperity. We've all witnessed in wonder the dawn of democracy in Eastern Europe. But in the Americas, we, too, have seen extraordinary political and economic change that is transforming the face of this hemisphere -- nowhere more so than right here, no more so than in the great nation of Brazil. The changes you are carrying out in your economy -- reducing the size of the state, privatizing enterprises, combating inflation, and liberalizing trade -- are the keys to growth and prosperity in a global economy of the 21st century, whose outlines we already see today. I am here to tell you that you are not only on the right path but the United States wants you to succeed and supports your efforts every step of the way. I believe that we've just begun to press forward toward the real promise of the Americas.

Territories may end at borders, but mankind's capacity for progress knows no bounds. Continents may end at the water's edge, but human potential knows only those limits set by human imagination. The Americas' role in the world is not defined by geography; it is defined by its people and its ideals. I truly believe that we are approaching a new dawn in the New World.

Our thinking must be bold; our will, resolute. Our challenge now is to hew out of a wilderness of competing interests a new kind of opportunity in the Americas. To fulfill the New World's destiny, all of the Americas and the Caribbean must embark on a venture for the coming century: to create the first fully democratic hemisphere in the history of mankind, the first hemisphere devoted to the democratic ideal -- to unleash the power of free people, free elections, and free markets.

Two weeks ago in Czechoslovakia, I spoke to a people that had paid dearly for its freedom. I talked about a new commonwealth of freedom based on four key principles. This hemisphere already shares these convictions: an unshakable belief in the dignity and rights of man, the conviction that just government derives its power from the people, the belief that men and women everywhere must be free to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and four, that the rule of law must govern the conduct of nations. Every nation that joins this commonwealth of freedom advances us one step closer to a new world order. We must persist until this victory for freedom and democracy is won completely.

It is also within our power to make this hemisphere the largest free-trading partnership of sovereign nations in the world. From the northernmost reaches of Canada to the tip of Cape Horn, we see a future where growing opportunity, the power of technology, and the benefits of prosperity are developed and shared by all. Change will not come easily. Economies now dependent on protection and state regulation must open to competition. The transition, for the time being, will be painful. Many in the Americas will have to make serious adjustments to compete with Southeast Asia and to take advantage of the European market after 1992. But we are confident that solutions will be found -- by Brazilians, by Chileans, by Venezuelans -- by all of the Americas.

And the results -- growing economies and sound currencies -- will bring unprecedented prosperity and growth for all our citizens to share. That was the vision of the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative that we announced last June. And Deputy Fiuza, I listened very carefully to your strong speech in this regard, and I thank you for those frank and forceful comments. The initiative calls for a major hemispheric effort to unify the New World in the three key areas of trade, investment, and debt.

In trade, our first priority should be to promote long-term growth. And the most effective first step is the successful conclusion of the Uruguay round, now in its final stages in Brussels. An end to export subsidies on agricultural goods and new openings for developing-country exports mean new market opportunities and a higher standard of living for the farmer in Para, the textile worker in Santa Catarina, and the engineer in Sao Paulo.

But the Uruguay round and bilateral trade agreements are only first steps. The Southern Cone Common Market, now developing under the leadership of your President and his colleagues in neighboring countries, is another major step toward the world's first hemispheric free trade zone.

To promote new investment in the Americas, the dead hand of state control must be lifted. We must allow entrepreneurs the flexibility to adapt, create, and produce. So, as we chart a course for the future of the New World, let us hold firmly in our minds an unshakable conviction in the importance and benefit of free enterprise. Let us work together so that any man or woman who wants to launch a new enterprise views the state as an ally, not as an obstacle, and all who pursue the fruits of the free market see other nations not as threats to sovereignty but as partners in trade and mutual prosperity.

Individuals cannot succeed if government is burdened by debt. So, the third leg of our Enterprise for the Americas Initiative is a comprehensive commitment to work with Brazil and others in Latin America to restructure U.S. official debt. Our new approach to official debt will complement commercial debt restructuring through the Brady plan. I understand the importance to Brazil and, indeed, to the international financial community of reaching a new and effective agreement on commercial debt. I believe, through your program of economic reform, you have taken the first crucial step toward that goal. Global capital flows will be vital to your development, and we are ready to assist wherever possible.

We've submitted a request to our Congress for the authority to implement our proposals. But we know that real solutions must involve all of us in the Americas. That's why we envision a permanent partnership between all the nations of the Americas to confront challenges that know no borders. We envision a hemisphere where a collaborative commitment is shared to protect our environmental legacy. There can be no sustained economic growth without respect for the environment. That's why the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative joins environmental protection with bilateral debt relief not as a challenge to national sovereignty -- not as a challenge to the sovereignty, in this case, of Brazil -- but as an affirmation of shared international interests. Senator Tito -- and I do appreciate, sir, your using this podium for a frank exchange here -- talked about partners in growth -- I believe you said, sir -- partners in growth rather than shareholders of misery. That is what you want, and that is what we want.

I encourage Brazil and other creditor nations to convert debt into funds for the environment. The entire world stands in awe of Brazil's unique endowment of wildlife, trees, and plants in the Amazon and the Atlantic rain forests. No nation on Earth -- none -- is as rich in flora and fauna, with all of their potential to provide future medicines and foods and crops and fibers. Your hosting of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 places Brazil in a position of true global leadership. We hope that conference will mark the culmination of a number of initiatives to protect and wisely utilize the world's resources.

We also are challenged to make ours a hemisphere where sovereign nations are joined in collective determination to eradicate the disease of drugs. On this one, the time for blame is long over. We in the United States recognize that we must do more to reduce what seems to you as insatiable demand. And you understand that the spreading tentacles of the drug trade threaten any democratic society. President Collor has taken a strong position against drugs for the sake of youth in Brazil. I know full well it is a demand problem as well as a supply problem for my country, and I pledge the full efforts of my government to continue to dampen demand. There is only one answer to the drug problem in this hemisphere, and that is to defeat these narco-traffickers who prey on our children, once and for all.

And finally, in this era of great challenges around the world, we want the Western Hemisphere to be a model to the world for security, stability, and peace. Together, let us ensure that this hemisphere stands united to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons or new, more dangerous ballistic missiles anywhere in the world. We hope that all countries in this hemisphere will follow Brazil's and Argentina's recent decision to bring the nonproliferation treaty, Tlatelolco, into force. I want to applaud, as many other nations have done, the recent announcement by Brazil and Argentina that together they will ensure that no nuclear program in their countries is used for anything but peaceful purposes. We applaud your decision to move forward on full-scope nuclear safeguards.

But your leadership today goes beyond this hemisphere. Just as Brazil made valiant contributions to the cause of freedom in World War II, you were among the very first to implement the sanctions against Iraq. I realize the sacrifices that Saddam's brutality has caused this nation and its people, has caused many nations around the world. In this country, I was told this morning, the impact -- $5 billion in higher oil prices alone for 1 year -- $5 billion to your economy, struggling to move forward, because of the brutality and the aggression of Saddam Hussein. In Czechoslovakia, a country that knows about aggression, Vaclav Havel told me, $1.5 billion just because of the aggression of Saddam Hussein. I salute your leadership in the world's community and united stand against Iraq's aggression and in defense of the rule of law.

Our nations long ago achieved independence from the Old World. And so, now let us work toward a new declaration of interdependence among the American nations of the New World. If, as Jose Bonifacio once said, "Brazilians are enthusiasts of a beautiful ideal," let us not limit the New World's potential with old thinking. After the half millennium we've had in this hemisphere to form our nations and find our way, let the nations of the Americas now fulfill their common potential.

Standing on this central plateau, soon to be the seat of great decisions, President Kubitschek said this: "I look once again at the future of my country and see this dawn with unyielding faith and unlimited confidence in its great destiny."

My friends, our neighbors, let the new dawn come to Brazil and to the New World, and let us fulfill the promise of these great lands.

Thank you very much. And may God bless the people of Brazil. Thank you very, very much.

Note: President Bush spoke at 11:28 a.m. in the House Chamber of the Brazilian Congress Building. In his remarks, he referred to Nelson Carneiro, President of the Senate; Antonio Paes de Andrade, President of the Chamber of Deputies; Senator Ronan Tito, leader of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party; Ricardo Fiuza, Member of the Chamber of Deputies; Minister Aldir Guimaraes, Acting President of the Supreme Court; Dom Carlo Furno, the Papal Nuncio; Dom Jose Freire Falcao, Archbishop of Brasilia; President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; and President Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia.

George Bush, Remarks to a Joint Session of the Congress in Brasilia, Brazil Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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