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TR95120101 (Corrected version: Treasury Secy. Rubin) all (780)

By Andrew L. Lluberes

USIA Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The United States hopes its hemispheric neighbors agree

to criminalize money laundering, deny criminals access to financial

institutions, and expand law enforcement tools for attacking money

laundering when they hold a ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires, says

Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

Rubin, who will chair the Dec. 1-2 ministerial, laid out those three

U.S. goals for the meeting at a Nov. 30 briefing on his trip to

Argentina and Brazil.

The secretary said the globalization of the economy mandates "a

comprehensive, international effort ... to choke off the threat posed

by money laundering."

Individual governments, he added, need to adopt a "coordinated and

cooperative" response to the problem similar to the one Washington has

established in Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network

(FinCen), which brings together elements of the Treasury, State, and

Justice departments.

Rubin noted that the United States criminalized the laundering of

money obtained through narcotics, arms trafficking, or other crimes

nine years ago.

The secretary said he will encourage other governments in the

hemisphere to take that step. He will also encourage his counterparts

in Buenos Aires to modify laws and regulations so as to deny criminals

access to financial institutions, establish systems to report possible

criminal financial activity, create financial intelligence units

similar to FinCen, and expand law enforcement tools such as forfeiture

laws and increased sharing of information among authorities.

"Together, each of these pieces support the ultimate goal of the

ministerial conference, which is for the nations of this hemisphere to

take ownership of this broad anti-money laundering strategy," Rubin

said. "Each nation will need to do more than merely affirm the fine

point of the communique. We all share an economic and social interest

in keeping our financial system free from criminal taint.

"In addition, because the only way to ensure success is the full and

effective implementation of the recommendations, I believe each nation

will be asked to work with the Organization of American States (OAS)

to produce a candid assessment of its own compliance."

The ministerial is the latest in a series of follow-up meetings to the

Summit of the Americas held in Miami a year ago by the leaders of the

hemisphere's 34 democracies. The Plan of Action issued at the summit

targeted money laundering and related corruption for attack, and gave

the OAS wide responsibilities for seeing that the summit's goals were


"This weekend's conference will mark a milestone in what is becoming a

global commitment to attack crime where it hurts, in the criminal's

pocketbook," Rubin said. "If we deal with money laundering, if we

hamper the criminal's ability to legitimize ill-gotten money, we can

undermine drug dealing and other illegal activities. If we deal with

money laundering, we can prevent the undermining of financial systems

and political systems."

Rubin, who said his interest in Latin America dates back to the senior

honors thesis he wrote on the Brazilian economy at Harvard 35 years

ago, said that on his first visit to the region as treasury secretary

he will also discuss the Clinton administration's strong support for

an international economic approach that stresses developing open

trading systems and financial markets, strengthening the global

economy against financial crises, and encouraging economic development

and reform.

The secretary will meet with Presidents Carlos Menem of Argentina and

Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil and other officials during his

visit to Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo.

On other issues, Rubin said:

-- The growing "economic nationalism" in the United States and other

industrialized countries will make it difficult to pursue the

international economic policy President Clinton believes is essential

for the United States. Absent that policy, Rubin fears economic

disparity will continue to increase in this country and elsewhere in

the hemisphere.

-- There is "zero question" in his mind that the $20,000 million U.S.

rescue package for Mexico was in the vital interests of the United

States and is working. He noted that Mexico has already repaid $700

million of the $12,500 million it tapped, and said it is "unlikely"

Mexico will require any more of the money.

-- Despite a "disappointing" setback in Congress this year, the

administration remains committed to obtaining fast track authority for

the negotiations to admit Chile to the North American Free Trade

Agreement. Rubin said a suggestion to raise the fast track issue after

the completion of the current budget negotiations with Congress is a

"good idea."