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Biden cites free-trade pacts for 'blossoming' Latin American economies

June 5, 2013 at 3:33 PM

NEW YORK, June 5 (UPI) -- Free-trade agreements with countries from Canada to Chile have spawned economic progress throughout the Western Hemisphere, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says.

Writing Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, Biden said he saw "economic blossoming" during a five-day trip last week through Latin America and the Caribbean.

"Latin America today is a region transformed," Biden said, noting that infrastructure such as roads had improved and peaceful elections were becoming the norm.

"As leaders across the region work to lift their citizens out of poverty and to diversify their economies from commodity-led growth, the U.S. believes that the greatest promise -- for Americans and for our neighbors -- lies in deeper economic integration and openness."

The vice president highlighted the Alliance of the Pacific, formed a year ago by Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico. Those countries have lowered trade barriers and integrated common interests, he said, "showing that pragmatism, not ideology, is the secret to success."

The changes will require the United States to look at the region "in a very different way," Biden said. One of those changes will be immigration reform "because it is the right thing to do for our own country."

"But it also will strengthen our standing in the hemisphere," he added. "Success in international relations, like any relationship, comes down to respect. And fully realizing the potential of these new relationships requires treating people from other nations living inside our borders with respect."

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