Biden courts Latin America and proposes turning the continent into “the most competitive in the world” | International

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Make America the “most economically competitive region in the world.” It is the goal that the president of the United States, Joe Biden, has proposed to ten Latin American leaders and Canada at a summit held at the White House.

The meeting had been scheduled for a long time: the creation of the Alliance for Economic Prosperity of the Americas (APEP) had been Biden's idea, presented at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles last year. But amid the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas, and with the conflict in Ukraine boiling over, its celebration represented a gesture of support from Washington to Latin America and a response to complaints that the region has been left in the background. flat in US foreign policy priorities.

The stated objective of the new group - the United States and those countries with which it maintains free trade agreements in the region - is to “establish a lasting forum to boost regional competitiveness and mobilize high-level investment in the hemisphere,” as well as tackle the causes of migratory flows in the region, according to the White House. Initial plans aim to bolster investments and move more parts of global supply chains to the region, “with an initial focus on clean energy, semiconductors and medical supplies,” according to the US presidential office.

“Increase opportunities and reduce inequality; harness the incredible economic potential of the Americas; and make the Western Hemisphere the most economically competitive region in the region. “I think it is something that is totally within our reach,” Biden said.

Washington is interested in strengthening ties with its neighboring region to counteract the push of China, which is increasingly present in Latin America and is already the first trading partner of some of its countries. And Biden made it clear in his words at the beginning of the meeting, in which the countries with which the United States maintains free trade agreements on the continent participated: Chile, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Uruguay , Mexico, Panama and Canada. Mexico and Panama were the only countries that sent the heads of their diplomacies, Alicia Bárcena and Janaina Tewaney, instead of their presidents or prime ministers.

“The United States is already, by far, the main investor in Latin America and the Caribbean. “We want to make sure that our closest neighbors know that they have a real possibility of choosing between diplomacy (based on) the debt trap and high-quality transparent proposals on infrastructure and inter-American development,” noted the White House tenant in the meeting in the East Room. “All we need to do is…continue to realize the positive vision we all share for a secure, prosperous and democratic region.”

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Biden's message was transparent. The United States intends for its private sector to compete with China in ambitious infrastructure projects similar to those that the People's Republic finances in the region. And he accuses Beijing of financing these projects with loans under apparently advantageous conditions but that burden the countries that accept them with debt.

In statements to El País, the director for the Western Hemisphere of the White House, Juan González, indicated that “we are confident in our ability to compete. Latin America and the Caribbean do not depend on us, they have formed links with the rest of the world.”

“Our interest, at the end of the day, is the prosperity of Latin America and the Caribbean, promoting integration between these countries, so that they prosper. We are not looking for anything in return. The president has also made this clear, that we do not seek a political goal, only the prosperity of the countries of the region, always within a democratic framework. Our national security strategy makes it very clear that the democratic development of the region contributes to our security and prosperity,” González pointed out.

Biden pointed to the creation of “a new infrastructure investment platform that will mobilize billions of dollars.” Subsequently, the White House indicated that the Alliance Platform for the Americas will build “modern ports, clean energy networks and the digital infrastructure necessary for a competitive economy,” although it did not offer specific figures.

A new accelerator program will also be established that connects start-up entrepreneurs with networks of private sector investors, for which the US aid agency USAID has pledged five million dollars and Canada, three million Canadian dollars. Uruguay has also announced its support for this tool.

APEP will also provide funds to provide infrastructure and social services to immigrants and their host communities. The United States, Canada, South Korea and Spain are collaborating with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to make available to this entity 89 million dollars that will be used to support the countries most impacted by migration. Spain will contribute two million dollars, which will be added to another five disbursed since 2019 to total seven million. “We must ensure that communities have the resources they need to be able to care for migrants,” Biden had stressed in his speech.

“There is an opportunity for the middle class and the working class to grow, to increase possibilities and reduce inequality, to harness the incredible economic potential of the Americas and turn the continent into the most economically competitive region in the world. I think it is within our reach,” Biden stressed in his speech, flanked by the presidents of Costa Rica, Rodrigo Chaves Robles, and of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou.

The US president also announced the creation of a fund for nature, which will promote investment in “green bonds” – debt instruments issued by public or private institutions to finance projects that serve to improve the environment – ​​and “blue bonds”, that seek to protect the oceans.

The conflict in the Middle East is not mentioned in the final communiqué of the meeting, but it was one of the issues addressed at the leaders' meeting, as confirmed by González. “There was an open conversation about it, but it didn't distract anything from the conversation about economic issues,” he noted. Chile and Colombia, both participants in the summit, are two of the Latin American countries that have been most critical of Israel. Chilean President Gabriel Boric had brought up the crisis in his bilateral meeting with Biden on Thursday.

The summit closed with a declaration in which the eleven countries declared their “joint vision for a more open, fair, inclusive, sustainable and prosperous hemisphere”, in which they recognized “the need to accelerate inclusive trade and investment and sustainable, tackle the climate crisis and expand social and economic opportunities to leave no one behind.”

By then, Biden was no longer in the White House. At mid-morning, the American president had embarked on a trip to Lewiston, Maine, to meet with the families of the victims of the worst shooting so far this year in the United States, which occurred last Friday when a man killed eighteen people before take his own life.

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