Well, first, may I salute the President of the Senate, President Valdes. And far be it from me to lecture to his colleagues in these distinguished bodies. But I first knew him years ago when he served the United Nations with such distinction. And I would simply say to everybody here, I think we can all understand why, with that service behind him, he has what I would say is a very forward-looking, global view. And I respect his views. And thank you very much, Mr. President, not only for your remarks but for your welcome.
I want to salute the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Jose Viera Gallo; Members of the national Congress; and all the people of Chile. And really, it is for me, having come out of our Congress in the United States, a great privilege to address you today and to bring you on behalf of the American people our heartfelt congratulations on Chile's return to democratic rule.
Here amid the hills of Valparaiso, here in the halls of this beautiful assembly, stands proof that Chile has returned to the democratic path -- proof that in Chile, once more, the people shall govern. It is my hope that this visit will renew and strengthen the ties between our two nations that trace back to the first days of Chilean independence, to your first Congress, convened on the 4th of July, 1811; to the guiding principles we share, the community of ideas that link your new nation to our own nation nearly 180 years ago. At the center of that community of ideas stand the shining principles that unite us today: individual liberty and democracy.
In the past year, the world has focused on the dramatic events that brought freedom and democracy to Eastern Europe and an end to an era of cold war and conflict that your President just talked about. But the principles at the root of those revolutions across the Atlantic are the very same that give life to our own democratic destiny. And in spite of the remarkable events unfolding in Europe, we should not lose sight of the fact that the triumph of the democratic ideal promises to make the Americas the first fully free hemisphere in all of history.
Chileans can take great pride in the role they have played in Latin America's democratic renaissance. Since the plebiscite of October 1988, Chile has undergone a political transformation every bit as far-reaching as the revolutions that changed the face of Eastern Europe. When others, frustrated by the long years under autocratic rule, might have engaged in recrimination, you, Chile, chose reconciliation. When others might have consumed themselves with settling scores, Chile chose to draw a positive lesson from the agony and the pain of the past.
Every year under autocratic rule served only to deepen your devotion to freedom and tolerance and respect for human rights, to strengthen Chile's collective resolve to make this return to democracy permanent and to make it irreversible. Chile's peaceful return to the way of democracy owes much to the leadership of a man of vision, a man of great moral courage, President Patricio Aylwin. But as President Aylwin understands, as everyone in this chamber knows, democracy's ultimate success rests not on the shoulders of one man alone but on the collective commitment of every Chilean -- every citizen in every region, from every station in society -- to put allegiance to democracy above any differences that divide you.
Chile has also been a part of a greater collective commitment through your steadfast participation in the international coalition now facing down aggression in the Persian Gulf. Chile, at considerable expense to your own economy, is upholding the sanctions against Iraq, despite the costs, because of the far greater cost to world stability should brutal aggression go unchecked. You understand, through hard experience, the fundamental importance of the rule of law.
As a friend of Chile, as the representative of a fellow democracy, I have deep respect for all that this nation has done to move forward, in peace, to this new day of freedom.
What is happening here in Chile is part, you see, of a larger movement that is sweeping this continent. Centuries ago, the Americas represented to the explorers of Europe the New World, an uncharted territory of promise and possibility. In the dawn of Chile's own independence, Bernardo O'Higgins, the Chilean patriot and patron of liberty for all of Latin America, spoke of Americas' shared destiny when he wrote: ``The day of liberty has arrived for the Americas. From the Mississippi to Cape Horn, an area comprising almost half the world, we now proclaim the independence of the New World.''
At long last, the new world O'Higgins wrote about is dawning across the Americas, a new dawn of democracy in which all men and women are free to live, work, and to worship as they please. My travels these past few days have made me more certain than ever that the Americas share a common democratic destiny and that Latin America's future lies with free government and free markets.
Chile, now returned to the democratic path, has long recognized the merits of a free-market economy. From the day Diego de Almagro first set foot on what is now Chilean soil, your lifeblood and link to the world has been trade. What has been true for Chile throughout its long history is today increasingly true for all nations.
Chile has moved farther, faster, than any other nation in South America toward real free-market reform. And the payoff is evident to all: 7 straight years of economic growth; in exports alone, a 15- to 20-percent increase in value in each of the past 5 years.
This explosive growth has secured for Chile a growing impact on the world economy. Today the farmer in San Fernando labors not just to feed his family, or even his village, but to deliver products to the dinner tables of Japan, Europe, and the United States. From the miner in Calama, the world obtains the raw materials it puts to use in everything from new homes to skyscrapers to space shuttles.
Chile's success -- your success -- is the product of wise policy, a comprehensive plan to transform this nation's economy into an engine for growth. Chile has worked to create an open and inviting investment climate for foreign capital. Since 1985 about .5 billion in new investment has flowed into Chile. Capital flight, which has sapped the economic strength of so many Latin nations, has now reversed itself, turned around, with returning funds spurring new investment here at home. And Chile has pioneered some of the world's most creative debt-reduction programs -- these debt-for-equity swaps, exchanges that have transformed debt from a deadweight on development into new opportunities for growth.
Chile is a land of tremendous natural resources, near limitless potential: the mineral wealth of the arid Atacama; the black earth of the Central Valley; the safe haven here at Valparaiso, for centuries Chile's main port of entry and access point to the world beyond. But all of these abundant resources pale in comparison to this nation's most significant asset: the vast human potential of the people of Chile. Give to the people of Chile the opportunity to better themselves -- to provide for their families, their children -- and Chile will build its future. And let the people reap the rewards of their own hard work, and incentive will spur enterprise. The future of Chile is the sum total of every individual's hopes and dreams. Unleash these energies and uncover a reservoir of riches. Tap this source and transform a nation.
What has worked here in Chile can work across this continent. Last June, as your President mentioned, I introduced an initiative that I call Enterprise for the Americas -- a comprehensive plan to reduce the crippling burden of debt and increase trade and investment across the Americas, for North or South, for Central. The Enterprise for the Americas Initiative challenges all countries in Latin America, and the Caribbean area, too, to commit themselves to the free-market policies that will help them attract the new capital central to achieving strong economic growth. To this end, Enterprise for the Americas seeks to promote open-investment policies through a new lending program in the Inter-American Development Bank, as well as the creation of a multilateral fund to support investment reform.
We recognize that the burden of external debt weighs heavily on efforts to breathe new life into Latin America and Caribbean economies. For that reason, the United States will help countries committed to free-market reform shake loose this burden of debt. Chile's strong economic performance makes it a prime candidate for the debt-reduction measures proposed as part of the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative.
And finally, our initiative recognizes the critical importance of our environment and the need to design debt-reduction measures that encourage environmental protection and conservation.
Enterprise for the Americas has generated great hope in the future of free markets across the continent. Already, during President Aylwin's recent visit to Washington, our two countries have signed a bilateral trade and investment framework under this initiative. And I look to Chile to continue to lead the way; to remain at the forefront of the free-market movement that's now beginning to take hold all across Latin America; to work together toward the ultimate aim of the Enterprise for the Americas, which is the creation of a hemispheric trade zone -- that is free, a free-trade zone -- from the Arctic regions in the north down to the southernmost tip of Cape Horn.
I want to see our two nations work together to bring down barriers to free and fair trade, not just here in the Americas but around the world. The great economic lesson of the past half-century is that protectionism stifles progress and that free markets breed prosperity.
And that's why the successful completion of this current Uruguay round negotiations remains my highest trade priority. In the Uruguay talks, both our nations have sought a deep reduction and, ultimately, the complete elimination of counterproductive agricultural subsidies. And together with Chile and other neighbors in the hemisphere, we here in the Americas constitute a potent force for free trade. So, let me say to all of you today: The United States stands ready to forge this new partnership in prosperity.
Some scholars say the word ``Chile'' means the ends of the Earth. Today what Chile means to the world is far different. Your nation is at the very center of the democratic revival transforming our entire continent, bringing us closer each passing day to the new world we seek. Because what matters in this new world is not the vast distances that separate us but the vital ideals that bring us together.
So, let today mark the beginning of a new partnership between our peoples. And let us all, across the Americas, work together toward a new world, toward that new dawn of democracy in which every nation is the home of liberty, democracy, and progress.
Once again, thank you from a very grateful heart for this welcome here in Chile. And may God bless the people of your great country. Thank you all very, very much.
Note: The President spoke at 4:25 p.m. in the Salon de Honor at the National Congress Building.