DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Diplomacy
Vice President, United States
Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. graduated from the University of Delaware and Syracuse Law School and served on the New Castle County Council. Then, at age 29, he became one of the youngest people ever elected to the United States Senate. As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since 1997, then-Senator Biden played a pivotal role in shaping US foreign policy. He has been at the forefront of issues and legislation related to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, post-Cold War Europe, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia. Vice President Biden’s formidable foreign policy experience assists the President on a multitude of international issues. He helped secure the Senate’s approval of the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, together with significant new funding to maintain our nuclear laboratories.
As pointed out to me by President Danilo Medina, I was the first Vice President to visit the Dominican Republic since 1980. And I came here for a simple reason, on behalf of the President of the United States, because like President Medina, we believe very, very deeply in the importance of the relationship. I’ve said throughout the hemisphere that it is no longer the United States, and this administration is looking to the hemisphere, looking to the Dominican Republic and setting out what can we do for you.
We have an inordinate respect for your democracy, respect for the President, and respect for the people. And this is about equals—equal sovereign nations dealing with one another. We agree on almost everything. Where we disagree, we have an opportunity to tell each other where and when we disagree. We’re not there yet so far. But the truth of the matter is this is the relationship that is based on mutual respect. And they’re not just words. That is what our policy is about; it’s mutual respect.
We can see how close we are. We have a million and a half Dominicans, many of whom are my friends and constituents, who live in the United States of America. And there are more than a million tourists that flock here. And there is baseball, which is the sinew that holds us together at the end of the day. We have so much in common that it’s only natural that our interests and our values overlap with one another.
The President and I discussed all that he said, and I’m hopeful we’re going to be able to discuss more. With regard to trade, we spoke about trade between our countries. And since the Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, it has grown to $11.5 billion. And the President and I discussed what the next steps are in fully implementing CAFTA-DR, including efforts to provide predictable business environment under the rule of law, as well as to put in place protections for intellectual property, labor and the environment. They’re essential elements of that agreement, and very, very important to the United States, and I’m sure to the Dominican Republic.
These aren’t just the terms of the trade agreement, they’re the ingredients for future growth. They are the basis for future growth. Where there is not labor protection, environmental protection and protection of intellectual property in this 21st century, there’s not likely to be growth consistent with capability.
The other ingredient to growth is education. My wife is a professor and teaches full-time while being Second Lady. And she has an expression. She says, show me a country that out-educates you, and I will show you a country that out-competes you. And it’s obvious that President Medina understands that; it is part of his DNA. I applaud him for his robust investment in education, including the constitutional mandate for a minimum share of the budget devoted to education. That is remarkable, and we wish the President every success in that regard. The Ambassador and I discussed ways in which we think we can. But it’s up to President Medina to decide whether we can be a value-added.
On security, the President and I also spoke about our countries’ shared efforts to protect our citizens from crime. We’re working together to reduce illicit drug trafficking, increasing public safety and security, and to promote social justice, human rights, and the rule of law because security depends on much more than arrest and confiscation of contraband.
I spent the bulk of my professional life on the security side of this arrangement when I was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which has control over our criminal justice system. And I know we share a common sense of what need be done, and we’re prepared to be of help.
And to give one small example, President Medina mentioned that together we’ve now put in place 911 emergency response for Santo Domingo. We see no reason why that cannot be—if you decide that’s what you want—extend this to the whole country. There is no reason why it has to be limited to Santo Domingo. We’re prepared to work with you to expand the 911 system. And we hope your government shares our view that it should be expanded to your entire country. But that’s for you to decide, not for us to decide.
The President and I also spoke about energy. The central issue for the Caribbean economies that are the most dependent in the hemisphere on energy imports that affects the lives of families and drains government budgets. It holds back economies, and people feel it. People feel it.
We also talked about regional issues. At least I will ask to talk more about it, about Venezuela and our mutual interest in bringing greater political inclusion, stability, and protection of basic human rights beyond the issue of energy production and availability.
We discussed immigration at some length. In my country, we’re working to bring about change for 11 million undocumented women, men and children, and to bring them out of the shadows of American life and give them the dignity that they deserve.
We also are aware that it is also in our economic interest to do that. Every independent study shows when we do that, our economy actually grows. Our deficit shrinks. Our security system—our Social Security system gains additional leverage. And so as I told the President, I personally think that one of the secrets to America’s ability to constantly renew itself is a consistent flow of immigration and integration into our population.
This is difficult, but we consider it a matter of economic self-interest, as well as a moral imperative. And the Dominican Republic faces its own challenge of improving the conditions of Haitian migrants and descendants who were born here in the Dominican Republic. I congratulated the President on the swift and decisive way and the overwhelming support he received in the legislature, in the Dominican Congress for the passage of a new naturalization law that is a serious piece of business.
And now it’s about implementation. And we’re confident that it will be implemented, and I spent time telling the President how pleased and quite frankly how surprised I was that he was able to act so swiftly in dealing with your Supreme Court decision. And it took a bold step that required bold leadership, which the President exercised. Implementation will be equally as important.
We had a wide-ranging and full discussion reflecting the close ties between our people, and the wide range of issues that connect us. Rest assured that we—the United States—value this relationship. We value it very highly, and make no mistake about it, we view the President and the country with great respect, as a sovereign nation that is equal in every discussion that takes place between us. I look forward to continuing our conversation.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Finance
Business Development Director, Latin America Region JMMB
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Health & Education
Director & President, Clinica Corazones Unidos