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U.S. unveils new Latin America economic plan


U.S. unveils new Latin America economic plan
United States vice president Kamala Harris speaks during the Summit of the Americas on Wednesday in Los Angeles - Reuters

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Los Angeles – The Biden administration unveiled a new proposed United States economic partnership with Latin America on Wednesday, as regional leaders gathered for a summit in Los Angeles whose agenda has been undermined by discord over the guest list.

Seeking to counter China’s growing clout in the region, a senior administration official said U.S. president Joe Biden is offering neighbours to the south an alternative that calls for increased American engagement, including more investment, strengthening supply lines, and building on existing trade deals.

Biden’s “Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity”, which still appears to be a work in progress, stops short of offering tariff relief however, and according to the U.S. official, will initially focus on “like-minded partners” that already have American trade accords. Negotiations are expected to begin in early fall, the official added.

Arriving in Los Angeles, Biden was due to outline his plan in a speech on Wednesday to open the summit, which was conceived as a platform to showcase U.S. leadership in reviving Latin American economies and tackling record levels of irregular migration at the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

But Biden’s agenda has been marred by a partial boycott by leaders upset at Washington’s decision to exclude Communist-run Cuba and the leftist governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua.

U.S. officials hope the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, and a parallel gathering of business executives can pave the way for greater cooperation as governments grappling with higher inflation work to bring supply chains stretched by the COVID-19 pandemic closer to home.

“It’s much better for us to have a supply chain here in the Americas than it is for us to be dependent on a supply chain that comes from China,” U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar told Reuters.

Even as Biden deals with major priorities such as mass shootings, high inflation, and the Ukraine war, the U.S. official said the president is seeking to press the administration’s competitive goals against China with the launch of the new partnership for the region.

Washington, which already has a combined trade pact with Canada and Mexico, a collective one with Central America and a series of other agreements, will attempt to develop new customs, digital trade, labour, environmental, and corporate accountability standards, according to the official.

U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken told business leaders at the summit that there remain “huge challenges” to creating a positive environment for investment, citing “everything from regulatory frameworks to corruption”.

Biden’s plan would aim to mobilise corporate investments, revitalise the Inter-American Development Bank, and create clean energy jobs.

Still, the administration appeared to be moving cautiously, mindful an initiative that promotes jobs abroad could face U.S. protectionist pushback.