Remarks by Telephone to the Plenary Session of the Caribbean and Central America Action Conference in Miami, Florida

November 29, 1981

Doctor West, Governor Graham, it's a pleasure to be able to talk to all of you there tonight. It would be a greater pleasure if I could be there with you. I'm most grateful to Prime Minister Seaga for his invitation, which I couldn't accept. I'd like to express greetings to all of you and to my friend, President Duarte, who is present, and I wish you success in this work that you're doing. With such a group of distinguished and talented business and government officials, I expect the conference could be a turning point in the economic development of a large region.

I share the spirit and the dream and the task that we've all set before us. The enormous importance of the program that we're jointly developing -- strengthening cooperation with our neighbors in the Caribbean Basin -- this is one of my highest priorities.

We're neighbors. We share not only opportunities for mutual benefits but also each others' troubles. I know that economic success is crucial to resolving problems of political instability, and I know that economic and social progress occur most often and most vigorously in societies that protect individual freedoms and democratic processes.

Each nation's approach to development should reflect its own cultural, political, and economic heritage. But there are common problems; therefore, an opportunity as well as the need for a regional approach.

We seek to formulate a regional approach which is genuinely cooperative. We have consulted closely with both government and private leaders in the region. This has included discussions with Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, whose development needs must be taken into account in any comprehensive set of measures. And it's on this basis that we're developing a program. Because we seek an innovative program, we've already begun discussions with our Congress, where approval for some of the contemplated actions will rest.

Let me just touch, if I can for a moment, on the principles underlying the program. Action must be cooperative. External support will be very important, but internal efforts are indispensable. The people of the Caribbean Basin themselves must decide what needs to be done and how to do it.

Second, governments and the private sector complement each other. Governments set the framework within which economic activities can flourish, but governments can't do it alone. The private sector has formidable powers of creativity and risk-taking, and it requires and deserves more support than we've given it over the past several years.

Third, our program will integrate trade, investment, and financial assistance to spur self-sustaining growth. In this sense, the program is tailored to the modern period and shouldn't be confused with more simplistic approaches that were pursued in earlier periods.

Alone, each of these tools makes an important contribution, and when each supports the others in a well-focused program, the effects are going to be multiplied. From such a program, the region will be able to secure relief for its most pressing problems, but will enjoy larger benefits from the cumulative impact of the measures.

I'm delighted that former Senator Bill Brock, and now our United States Trade Representative, is there with you and, I know, will give a more detailed outline of what it is we're talking about in this plan for the Caribbean and for Central America.

Again, I appreciate more than I can say, this opportunity to speak to you, and regret, equally, that I couldn't be there in person with you.

God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke to the Conference participants from his ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif., at approximately 6:05 p.m.