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Many nations and peoples of the Americas have suffered at terrorists' hands. Five months before the attacks in the U.S. in April 2001, President Bush and the 33 other freely elected leaders of this hemisphere, meeting at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec, forged a common vision of democratic governance and free trade.
As a part of this vision, the leaders of the Western hemisphere also committed themselves to an aggressive plan of action to protect their citizens by working together against terrorism and other transnational crimes.
In the wake of 9/11, the nations of the hemisphere, working through the Organisation of American States (OAS), negotiated the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism. This is the first international counter-terrorism treaty to be developed after the attacks on the United States in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. It has been signed by 33 of the 34 OAS members and, once ratified and in effect, commits our nations to work together to better coordinate international, regional and local efforts against terrorism.
The events of 9/11 also brought into clearer focus the connection between terrorism and other transnational crimes, such as drug trafficking, money laundering and illegal migration. These crimes enable terrorists to finance and carry out their activities. Every step that any country takes to stem these types of criminal activities is a step toward keeping its citizens and those in neighbouring countries safer from terrorism and other crimes that plague us.
The U.S. is committed to taking additional steps alongside its hemispheric neighbours to bring about increased cooperation in the fight against terrorism and emerging terrorist threats. Many agencies within our government, including the U.S. Customs Service, are engaged in cooperative counter terrorist efforts in the hemisphere. These efforts include, among others, cooperation on terrorist financing investigations, training on identifying and dismantling illegal terrorist financing networks, and improving the security of shipping containers.
The upcoming Third Regular Session of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE) of the OAS, January 22-24, 2003, in El Salvador serves an opportunity to further transform hemispheric solidarity and rhetoric into concrete actions. CICTE, currently chaired by the U.S., is a technical body of the OAS that seeks to foster multilateral cooperation in the form of training and information sharing among member nations to prevent, combat and eliminate terrorism.
There is a need to continue to transform last year's policy planning into tangible programmes. By doing this, we will further strengthen CICTE's coordinating function, especially to help member states implement their obligations under the new Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism, which will very likely come into effect later this year.
Working to strengthen the security of our borders does not mean interfering with trade. In fact, greater cooperation on the security of our borders will further reinforce trade relations within the hemisphere, and make the flow of trade even more efficient than it was before 9/11. Moreover, strengthening our border security and financial regimes not only deters terrorism, but also other forms of transnational crime and corruption.
Together we can make our hemisphere inhospitable ground for terrorists.