Vice President Biden’s trip to Brazil for the World Cup signals America’s growing appreciation for one of Latin America’s favorite cultural institutions: soccer. While the vice president shares the Dominican Republic’s passion for another sport, baseball, his upcoming visit to my country is more than just a scouting trip for his beloved Phillies. This trip will solidify an already strong relationship between our two countries.
As the largest economy in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic has undertaken a series of reforms to profoundly modernize government administration and promote sustainable development for the island. The US has supported us as a close partner and friend throughout the process, and we welcome the Vice President with open arms as our two countries prepare to work together like never before.
The reforms implemented under President Danilo Medina’s leadership are enabling us to fulfill our responsibilities to enhance citizen security and reduce illicit drug trafficking, as well as promoting closer economic ties between the Dominican Republic and the U.S.
Last month, the Dominican Republic passed historic citizenship and documentation reform legislation, which has received praise from international observers. The law completes our country’s goal of enacting a modern and transparent policy for registering national and immigrant residents in a way that respects each person’s contribution to Dominican society. I am proud of my country’s ability to come together to support this groundbreaking policy that not only benefits the security and economic and social well-being of my country, but also that of the region as a whole.
Our government took a consultative approach toward developing the legislation, seeking input from close partners such as the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, CARICOM and Haiti, throughout the drafting process. This is just one of many examples of close cooperation between the Dominican Republic and the U.S.
The Dominican Republic and the United States are working together to protect and enhance security in the Caribbean and Central America. Coordinated efforts between Dominican and U.S. law enforcement officials are critical in combating illicit narcotics and human trafficking, improving maritime security, and curbing illegal migration through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).
The Dominican Republic has recently joined the United States and Canada as a key participant in Exercise Tradewinds 2014, a maritime security and disaster response training program taking place this month in the Dominican Republic.
After having recently eliminated various drug-trafficking routes, the Dominican Republic’s military is continuing to make important investments to improve aerial interdiction, most recently by installing radar technology to respond to suspect flights in the southwest coast, a remote, highly-trafficked area.
On the economic front, DR-CAFTA has continued to serve as a driver of economic growth for both countries. Since the signing of the agreement in 2007, Dominican exports to the US have increased by 24 percent, growing from US$3.09 billion in 2007 to US$4.2 billion in 2013. With total bilateral trade nearing $12 billion in 2012, the Dominican Republic is the 9th largest market in the Western Hemisphere for US exports.
In addition to this success, our robust tourism industry has never been better. Last year, Expedia.com recognized the Dominican Republic as the "Top Caribbean Destination of the Year.” About four million international tourists visited the country in 2013, nearly 1.6 million of which were US citizens.
As the world marvels at the collaborative spirit of the World Cup, it’s time to appreciate the strength of an often overlooked partnership. The Dominican Republic and the U.S. have a long history of standing shoulder to shoulder on the most pressing issues facing our region. The Dominican Republic is prepared once again to take to the field with the United States in support of our shared goal of a more prosperous and secure Caribbean.
de Castro is the ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the United States, a position he has held since July 2011. In 2004, he was appointed as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Dominican Republic to the United Kingdom. He represented the Dominican Republic as non-resident ambassador to the Commonwealth of Australia (2007-2011) and to the Republic of Ireland (2009-2011).