Faced with the political problems and disagreements that divided the region before the Summit of the Americas, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, wants to win the complicity of other countries through closer economic cooperation, which, incidentally, will serve to contain immigration. Biden’s plan includes strengthening the region’s development banks, particularly the Islamic Development Bank, by removing obstacles to trade and providing financing to countries with immigration problems, although it lacks accuracy and investment figures. However, the proposal does not go beyond good intentions for now, and in most matters it promises to start a path to strengthening those ties.
At the opening ceremony of the summit, taking place this afternoon in Los Angeles (early Wednesday-Thursday in Spain), Biden will announce the Alliance for Economic Prosperity in the Americas, which the White House considers a “historic new agreement” promoting the recovery and growth of the American continent’s economy entire. The ceremony, however, is marred by absences, especially the absence of the President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and a sense of weight loss and the influence of the United States in the region.
After the presidency of Donald Trump, who demonstrated the harshest anti-immigration rhetoric and promoted economic nationalism, Biden had an opportunity to generate complicity in the region and the Summit of the Americas seemed a fitting occasion. However, geostrategic priorities, with the immediate war in Ukraine and the long-standing Chinese challenge, pushed regional politics into the background.
In fact, some Latin American leaders have ended up having a better relationship with Trump than they have shown thus far with Biden. Bolsonaro, before traveling to Los Angeles, was full of praise for the former president, and seemed to think the hoaxes that the presidential election had been stolen from him were justified. And even Lopez Obrador has ended up with Trump better than he has so far with Biden.
With so many leftist and populist governments unfriendly to Washington, with the mutual hostility of the regimes of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, with the migration crisis they have failed to address and with China’s investments in the region, the weight of US foreign policy has receded on a continent hard hit health and economically by the coronavirus.
The economy of Latin America and the Caribbean has been hardest hit by the pandemic, which has also caused an unprecedented migration crisis. Inequality has increased, millions of people have fallen into poverty, and inflation, from which the United States is not spared, has eroded the purchasing power of families. In cooperation with other countries in the region, the United States is preparing a Declaration on Migration that emphasizes shared responsibility and the need to promote development in countries of origin to discourage immigration.
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No instant results
“The Coalition for Economic Prosperity in the Americas will rebuild our economies,” says a senior Biden administration official. Strengthening supply chains, promoting innovation in the public and private sectors, and encouraging investments to combat climate change are the goals of this alliance.
There will be no immediate results from Los Angeles, but after the conclusion of the summit, the United States will conduct initial consultations with hemispheric partners and stakeholders in a number of areas. In fact, the sources who participated in the negotiations indicate that the documents are public and have been watered down a lot for the sake of compatibility.
However, the most advanced proposals consist of strengthening regional economic institutions and mobilizing investment. The idea is that its financing mechanisms mobilize much higher levels of private investment. “Together, we will strengthen regional economic institutions in the hemisphere, such as the Inter-American Development Bank, including through reforms to promote climate ambition, social inclusion, and private sector development,” the same source said. The United States is considering acquiring a stake in IDB Invest, the private sector finance arm of the Islamic Development Bank. In addition to strengthening regional institutions, including the CAF, the United States also promises to work so that international financial and economic institutions, particularly the World Bank, give due priority to the region.
The other purpose is to support countries that host particularly large numbers of migrants or refugees, or that wish to undertake ambitious reforms in line with the goals of the Alliance.
Fewer trade barriers
This close cooperation also includes the removal of trade barriers. Although Biden will not propose new free trade agreements, he does propose cooperation to facilitate customs movement, promote transparency and good regulatory practices, pursue high standards in the digital economy, support emerging technologies, improve energy and food supply chains, and enhance demanding employment and the environment. Standards, encourage corporate responsibility.
Within these rather general statements are also those related to expanding participation in the formal economy, including fiscal and anti-corruption measures, as well as cooperation and infrastructure investments in areas such as immigration, education, health, unemployment, retirement, childcare, and women’s economic empowerment. With regard to climate change and green investments, deepening cooperation in technology, best practices and mechanisms to increase public and private investment, among other objectives.
The United States wants the outcome of the summit to calm the debate over the guest list and attendance. The President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, refused to attend and was seconded by other leaders in the region after the White House’s decision not to invite the presidents of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro; Cuba, Miguel Diaz-Canel, and Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, referring to the “lack of democracy” in their countries. Negotiations finally allowed the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, and Argentina, Alberto Fernandez, to attend, but attention focused on this issue until the same week of the summit, when the United States did not clarify its position until the last week. Moment.
Besides economic aspects, health issues, climate change, digitalization and energy, another major issue at the summit is migration. The United States preferred to extract from the summit itself the Los Angeles Declaration scheduled for Friday, which aims to give a comprehensive approach and joint responsibility to the migration crisis. In this way it avoids the need for consensus, but at the same time it risks having countries distance themselves from the declaration. The Latin American countries hardest hit by the immigration crisis are not in Los Angeles. Washington has indicated that it is confident that Mexico will abide by the immigration agreements that have been adopted, but the Mexican government has not commented, for now, on the matter.
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