U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill welcomed Finance Ministers of the Western Hemisphere meeting in Washington, D.C. today. He said the meeting of Ministers marks an excellent occasion to discuss how best to work together to raise living standards in the years ahead, and to put the challenging economic times of the past few years behind.

*”I believe that every country in our hemisphere, by following good policies, can create the conditions to weather storms, keep productivity strong, and raise economic growth to higher, sustainable levels,”* said Mr. O’Neill in Opening Remarks.

**Call For Strong Leadership**

Strong leadership was seen as a must in times of crisis to recognise the challenges and to rally the public and the many interested parties to rise to these challenges. Expressing the view that the hemisphere has the potential to succeed, the Secretary said dedicated, accountable leaders must “rule justly, invest in their people, and expand economic freedom.” In the right environment, this will drive prosperity.

**Chairman’s Statement**

In a Statement issued following the meeting, the Chairman explained that the purpose in meeting was to discuss policy approaches to shared challenges with the aim of increasing effectiveness through cooperation among all economies, small as well as large.

Although focused on “productivity growth”, the meeting discussed developments related to financial flows to the region, and the importance of pursuing sound policies so that capital markets contribute to stable, long-term growth.

**Combating Terrorism**

Also addressed was the fight against terrorist finance, money laundering, and tax evasion. Finance Ministers agreed that they have a critical contribution to make in this context to global stability and the rule of law. They pledged commitment to ensure that financial institutions are not abused and financial flows within countries or across borders do not support illegal activity. In this connection, an “Action Plan on Combating The Financing of Terrorism” was endorsed. (see link below).