President Funes met with two top U.S. officials last week while attending the Fourth Annual Americas Competitiveness Forum in Atlanta, Georgia.The Salvador President first met with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke who emphasized Central America’s importance to the U.S. in terms of renewable energy progress and trade. Since CAFTA-DR was implemented in 2006, U.S. exports to the region have rapidly increased, with 2008 levels 50% higher than those of 2005 (Commerce Press Release 11/16/2010). Secretary Locke singled out El Salvador for its efforts in renewable energy, stating, “U.S. companies are well positioned to work with El Salvador on renewable energy which is a key priority of the Obama administration. We look forward to continuing to work with El Salvador on this important endeavor” (Commerce Press Release 11/16/2010).
President Funes also met with Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela to discuss the correlation between poverty, migration and security. Funes also stressed the need to combat organized crime throughout Central America and proposed utilizing internationally recognized law enforcement institutions.
At the forum, whose 2010 theme was “Building a Prosperous and Sustainable Future for the Americas,” Funes also called for implementing a regional social policy, noting “Investing in the poor, in social development programs, is also investing in production” (La Prensa Gráfica, 11/16).
Of the more than 800 attendees representing economic and commercial interests from 34 participating countries in the Western Hemisphere, Salvadoran President Funes was the highest-ranking official in attendance at the event. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, “Total trade in merchandise between the United States and its 48 Western Hemisphere trading partners totaled $954.1 billion in 2009 — or 42 percent of total U.S. merchandise exports to the world” (International Trade Administration press release, 11/15).