ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERATIVE REPUBLIC OF BRAZIL DURING THE 3RD CELAC SUMMIT
San Jose, 28 January 2015
Members of the delegations from the CELAC member countries,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to express my gratitude to President Guillermo Solís, and to the people of Costa Rica, for organizing this Summit and for the warm welcome we have enjoyed.
Despite their different worldviews, the countries of the CELAC have given special focus to regional integration. In 2008, during a Summit in Brazil, the Latin American and Caribbean Heads of State and Government managed to formulate their own agenda, which represents the interests of Latin America and the Caribbean. Six years after that meeting, we have now developed our relationships, and have much to celebrate.
We have recently witnessed a fact of historical transcendence: the announcement of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. Thus, the last remnants of the Cold War in our region begin to fade away. I have no doubt that the CELAC has been a catalyst in that process. It took courage and a sense of historical responsibility by presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama to take this important step.
The two Heads of State deserve our recognition for the decision they have taken - one that is beneficial not only for Cubans and Americans, but rather to all citizens of the continent. Also equally deserving of our recognition is Pope Francis, for his important contribution to that process.
We must not forget, however, that the economic, commercial and financial embargo by the United States against Cuba remains in force. This coercive measure, unjustified under international law, that affects the well-being of the Cuban people and harms the development of the country, must, as I am sure is the view of all countries represented here, be overcome. Brazil, by financing the construction of the Port of Mariel inaugurated during the CELAC Summit in Havana, has acted in favor of comprehensive integration. We thank the Cuban government and the Cuban people for the great contribution they have given to Brazil in helping provide basic healthcare services to 50 million Brazilians.
Dear friends, fellow Heads of State and Government,
The theme of the Third CELAC Summit, "Building Together", based on the fight against social exclusion, is not a mere exercise in rhetoric. I would say that, in Brazil, we have achieved extraordinary results in our fight against social exclusion.
Between 2002 and 2013, the percentage of people living in food insecurity - in other words, people living in hunger - fell from 10% to 1.7%. And in 2014 and 2015, that number is approaching zero. Thanks to that effort, our country was removed from the FAO Hunger Map, a milestone for us and our history.
We created an income floor within the Bolsa Família Program below which no Brazilian should be. We began supplementing family income over the last four years, and that helped 22 million Brazilians overcome extreme poverty, I repeat, in the past four years alone. That is because since the Lula administration, from 2013 to 2010, we have been making a lot of effort in that direction. Therefore, we implemented a search program to find the poorest in our country, aware that it is not the poor who have to seek the State, but rather the State that has a duty to sponsor that search in order to bring to all its citizens the new rights and opportunities that opened up for them.
With this, we are practically lifting from extreme poverty the residual population that had not yet been reached. For that population, we have also managed to get 1.570,000 young people from our poorer families to train for the job market and thus increase their income; half a million people from those families set up their own small businesses; 1.3 million small and micro entrepreneurs, also coming from the Bolsa Família program, had access to credit in order to produce, and moved up on the income ladder. In the driest region of Brazil, one million extremely poor families had access to water and conquered their water security and autonomy.
We are rescuing Brazilians from extreme poverty and creating new opportunities for them to progress and continuously improve their lives. We believe that the way out of extreme poverty is only a beginning. So that our millions of citizens may have prosperity, we need to focus strongly on quality education - from nursery and kindergarten to post-graduate degrees - and on building strong innovation capacity for Brazilian companies and the Brazilian State.
For that end, we are investing in the research and development of technologies that will enhance the competitiveness of our economies, investing in high-level university networks, and running an 8 million-recipient program, already completed, to provide vocational training for the poor and the poorest in Brazil. Over the next four years, we will create 12 million new positions for vocational training.
Our numbers are significant. We have built and hired 3,75 million homes under the Minha Casa, Minha Vida 2 program between 2011 and 2014. Now, we are committed to building 3 million more homes by 2018 under the Minha Casa, Minha Vida 3 program. For us, it is very important, and a matter of great pride, to know that this process of social inclusion is one shared with all of our neighbors in Latin America.
All available indicators show that, over the last decade, poverty and extreme poverty have declined strongly in the region.
Of all regions of the world, the Latin America and Caribbean region was the one that showed the largest levels of reduction in hunger between 1990 and 2014. In fact, the prevalence of undernourished people fell from 15.3% to 6.1% in our region over that period.
The scenario in our region contrasts with a very complex global economic environment. We continue to face many difficulties. Part of the effects of the crisis was mitigated by the economic development model we have adopted, with strong emphasis on social inclusion and countercyclical policies regarding economic growth. We are aware that the recovery of the global economy is not, however, taking place with the expected strength.
According to the World Trade Organization, global trade grew by 2.8% in 2010; in 2013, it fell by 2.5%. And in 2014, the data indicates that international trade continued to contract. These low rates are explained by factors such as the slow recovery of the US economy, which has not yet reached pre-crisis levels of consumption. In turn, stagnation is a reality in Europe and Japan. Deceleration of growth in China, according to data from the Monetary Fund, has been the highest in the last 25 years.
The drop in commodity prices has penalized economies in all parts of the world, affecting income and growth. Notably, the fall of oil and ore prices... The price of oil, for instance, fell by 58.8% (between June 2014 and January 2015) and the price of iron ore, for example, is down by 53% (December 2013 to January 2015). All of this affects the region, our region, and we must be faced with somewhat less room for maneuver in macroeconomic policy in some countries, increased current accounts deficit, inflation and fiscal deficits. It will take caution and effort by the countries of the Latin America and the Caribbean to stimulate competitiveness in their economies. They recommend that we in Latin America and the Caribbean encourage intra-regional trade and investment, and aside from that we also see strong levels of appreciation of the dollar.
At the same time, unfortunately, subsidies distort international trade, and certain reactions cause tariff escalations that hinder exports by developing countries. Again, in face of such scenario, it becomes urgent that we cooperate, that we prioritize intra-regional trade, and at the same time, whenever possible, that we encourage development and integration of our productive chains. We must also cooperate with other regions.
In July 2014, while meeting in Brasilia, we launched the CELAC-China Forum, which aims to promote cooperation in infrastructure, energy, agriculture and education. Two weeks ago, our foreign ministers attended the 1st Meeting of the CELAC-China Forum, held in Beijing, and approved the Cooperation Plan for 2015-2019. The 2nd EU-CELAC Summit, to be held next June, will be an opportunity to discuss issues of interest for both regions, such as investment and trade opportunities. The CELAC countries must unite to face the issues of the global economy and resume robust growth.
Dear Heads of State and Government,
Even with these important external partnerships and others that will surely come, we must always remember that integration starts primarily between neighbors. I would like to propose that, over the next cycle, we constitute a CELAC Business Forum with the participation of government and businesses representatives. Its goal will be to develop trade, leverage the diverse opportunities our economies offer, and whenever possible, encourage productive integration in the CELAC realm, promoting our relations with the rest of the world.
Brazil values the role of CELAC as a space for cooperation and agreement, and this will be another step in that direction. It was in this spirit that we promoted the 1st Ministerial Meeting on Family Agriculture in Brasilia, in November 2014, with significant participation of CELAC member states.
Fellows Presidents and Heads of Government,
The Political Declaration that we will adopt in this Summit covers several issues of central importance for all Latin American and Caribbean countries. I am referring specifically to the promotion of sustainable development and policies aimed at eradicating poverty and reducing inequality. We will also approve the Action Plan, which will outline the priorities for regional cooperation for the coming year, including areas such as education, culture and industrial development.
I want to give particular emphasis to the approval of the Plan for Food and Nutrition Safety and the Eradication of Hunger. This decision reflects the political commitment to eradicate the scourge of hunger, which has taken the lives millions of our citizens for centuries and has yet to be fully overcome in our region.
My dear friend, President Rafael Correa,
I wish you great success in your mandate that is now beginning. I am sure that Ecuador will calmly and competently fulfill the task of leading the CELAC, contributing to building the necessary consensus in our region. Good luck and good work. Once again, I would like to thank President Solís for the warm welcome and generous hospitality.
Thank you very much.