By David McKeeby
WASHINGTON — The United States seeks a fresh start with its neighbors in the Americas, says Vice President Joe Biden, beginning with a collaborative approach to confronting the global financial crisis.
“We genuinely want to be collaborative. We genuinely want to engage in consultation. We genuinely want to know what others think,” Biden told leaders gathered in Vina del Mar, Chile, for the March 28 Progressive Governance Conference. “We do not look to ourselves as the engine to solve the problems; we only look to ourselves in joining you to jointly solve the problems.”
The event comes on the eve of the April 2–3 G20 London summit, where President Obama will join world leaders to discuss immediate global actions to boost the global economy as it faces the greatest challenges since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
“Only by working together can our countries overcome the challenges we face,” Biden said in a March 27 commentary article that ran in several major Latin American newspapers. “Today, we are more than just independent nations who happen to be on the same side of the globe. In today’s interconnected world, we are all neighbors who face many common concerns.” (See “Biden on a New Day for Partnership in the Americas.”)
Biden briefed leaders on the administration’s efforts to confront the domestic economic challenges it inherited on taking office. With as much as 25 percent of global gross domestic product originating in the United States, Biden said U.S. success will go a long way toward improving conditions across the Americas, as well as addressing the overall global crisis.
Biden agreed with Latin American and European leaders meeting in Chile on the need for “new rules of the road” to reduce systemic risk, but warned critics against over-regulation, which could harm healthy markets and slow progress toward recovery.
“It’s not a choice of markets or governments, in my view. A free market still needs to be able to function,” Biden said. “It seems to me we need to save the markets from free marketers.”
In the United States, Biden said, progressive governance in a time of economic crisis means $787 billion in a recently passed economic stimulus package. Biden has been tasked with overseeing the effort, which he said could create or save 3.5 million jobs over the next 18 months through targeted government investments. Many of the investments would complement other administration goals by developing alternative energy sources, redeveloping U.S. infrastructure, and setting the stage for major reforms in U.S. health care.
Parallel to economic stimulus, the administration has launched a financial rescue operation to get credit flowing again, Biden said, restoring confidence in the banks by injecting capital into the system, helping clear bad assets from balance sheets, and introducing new government regulations to address the speculative investments that contributed to the crisis.
Additional action to address home mortgages, as well as a proposed $3.7 trillion budget, round out the administration’s plan, Biden said. The plan is ultimately aimed at building a path toward a more economically sustainable future.
“Forbearance is not an option,” Biden said. “It’s not just a question of having a social safety net to save people from falling; we want to lay a foundation for a new economy so that prosperity can be broadly shared.”
Biden’s trip also included a stop in Costa Rica, where he met with President Oscar Arias and several Central American leaders ahead of President Obama’s appearance at the Summit of the Americas April 17–19 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.