WASHINGTON, July 12 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama and Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez Monday discussed the two countries' efforts to combat drug trafficking.
Following their meeting at the White House, Obama said drug running and related crime have "the potential to be destabilizing throughout the region," and more needs to be done to combat them.
"And so President Fernandez and I discussed how we can do a better job coordinating through multinational groupings to address what is a scourge on so many countries," Obama said. "And that involves us dealing both with the supply side of the equation but also the demand side."
Obama said he and Fernandez also talked about how the United States and Dominican Republic can expand trade opportunities and business opportunities.
"One area that I expressed to the president that is of particular interest to me is clean energy," Obama said, noting Brazil had made "enormous progress around clean energy, sugar cane-based ethanol, the possibilities of real energy independence in the region. I think those same opportunities exist for the Dominican Republic."
Fernandez lauded Obama's attention to Latin America, and said the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative "has been the right path forward" in combating drug trafficking.
"And I think now we should move into a more collaborative environment with the other Caribbean nations, Central America and Mexico," Fernandez said. "It is only by coordinating our efforts that we can really defeat this epidemic that has become overwhelming to all of our countries."
The Latin American leader said the Dominican Republic has "not benefited fully" from its free-trade agreement with the United States "because of the global financial crisis and how it has affected trade."
"But we can look into the future hopefully that we will increase our trade activities and more investment coming from the U.S. into the Dominican Republic," he said.