Biden: US, Latin America must cooperate in drug fight, economy

Biden: US, Latin America must cooperate in drug fight, economy Vina del Mar, Chile  - US Vice President Joe Biden, in Chile to discuss world economic issues as well as relations within the Americas, Friday proposed that Latin America and the United States "work together, as partners," and move "toward a new day" in their relations.

Biden arrived in Chile Friday, where he was to meet with President Michele Bachelet ahead of a so-called Progressive Leaders' Summit in the seaside resort of Vina del Mar intended to prepare for next week's G20 summit in London on the global financial crisis.

That meeting on Saturday is to include British Prime Minister Gordon Brown as well as the leaders of Spain and Norway.

In an opinion piece published in 11 major newspapers across Latin America, Biden stressed that US President Barack Obama - set to meet his peers from the region at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago next month - is keen on building a new relationship with the region.

"The President and I understand that only by working together can our countries overcome the challenges we face," he wrote.

"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."

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton blazed a trail of good will in ther egion earlier this week with her visit to Mexico, where she pledged that the US would do more to stem the demand for illicit drugs in the US as well as block the flow of illegal weapons from the US to south of the border.

It was a rare open acknowledgment of long-standing demands across Latin America that the US share the responsibility in the drug fight and not just focus on repression of violence and trade within South America.

In a similar vein, Biden stressed the concept of shared responsibility on key issues.

"The drug trade is a problem we all share and one whose ultimate solution we must devise together."

In the current context of global economic crisis, he also stressed common interests.

"Rekindling the US economy and ensuring that international financial institutions serve the interests of the people are particularly important for the Americas," Biden said.

"Our economic interconnection means that a robust US economy is good for the hemisphere and can become an engine for bottom-up economic growth and equality throughout the region."

Latin America's economic ties with the northern giant vary. Mexico sends to the United States over 80 per cent of its exports, while for regional giant Brazil - the tenth-largest economy in the world - it is just 16 per cent and for Argentina it is less than 8 per cent. (dpa)

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