WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden threw himself into the Summit of the Americas this week with a goal to advance regional progress on tackling economic development, climate change and migration despite absence by some notable colleagues from Latin America.
With the US hosting the gathering for the first time since 1994, Biden and his team set about strengthening ties and overcoming the considerable drama that world leaders would be part of.
“At this summit,” Biden said in his opening remarks on Wednesday night, “we have an opportunity to bring together some bold ideas and ambitious actions and demonstrate to our people the incredible power of democracies to deliver tangible benefits and make life better for.” Everyone. All.”
The US President was expected to sit with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday and deliver a speech to the wider group of attendees. Vice President Kamala Harris was scheduled to meet with Caribbean leaders to discuss clean energy, and First Lady Jill Biden hosted brunch to build relationships with fellow spouses.
The day is expected to end with dinner at the Getty Villa, an art museum overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
A number of activists from across the United States and dissidents from the region have gathered around the Los Angeles Convention Center, where most meetings are held, to promote their causes.
There could be tension at Biden’s first meeting with Bolsonaro, an ally of ex-President Donald Trump. Bolsonaro is running for a second term and has expressed doubts about the credibility of his country’s election, which has alarmed officials in Washington.
When Bolsonaro accepted an invitation to the summit, He asked Biden not to confront him over his electoral attacks, according to three of the Brazilian leader’s cabinet ministers, who asked not to be known to discuss the issue.
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, dismissed the idea that Biden had agreed to any terms for the meeting with Bolsonaro.
“There are no subjects that are off-limits in the President’s bilateral talks, even with President Bolsonaro,” Sullivan told reporters. He added: “I expect the President will discuss open, free, fair and transparent democratic elections.”
Biden began emphasizing the issue on Wednesday as he welcomed leaders to the summit.
“Democracy is a hallmark of our region,” he said.
It also became a sticking point when planning the guest list for the event. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wanted the leaders of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua to be invited, but the US resisted, believing them to be authoritarian.
Ultimately, no agreement could be reached, and López Obrador decided not to participate. Neither did the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Honduran Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina spoke about President Xiomara Castro’s decision to stay away.
“The President has made it very clear that this should be a summit without exclusions,” Reina said. Still, he said the Honduran government is willing to work on common problems, saying “the political will to work with all countries in the Americas is there.”
It recalled that relations with Latin America have proved difficult for the government, even as they cement ties in Europe, where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to closer cooperation, and in Asia, where China’s growing influence is shattering some countries in the region has shaken.
One challenge is the unmistakable power imbalance in the hemisphere. World Bank data shows the US economy is more than 14 times the size of Brazil, the next largest economy at the summit. Sanctions by the US and its allies against Russia are much tougher in Brazil, which imports fertilizers from Russia. And trade data suggests the region is deepening ties with China, which has also invested in the region.
This enables the US to show Latin America why a closer relationship with Washington would be more beneficial at a time when economies are still struggling to emerge from the pandemic and inflation has worsened conditions.
Sullivan pledged that the US will invest “certain dollars in achieving tangible results” in the region, including worker training and food security funds.
“When you put all of this together and look at the practical implications of what the outcomes of the United States summit will mean for the public, it has a far greater impact on the actual lives and livelihoods of people in this region than the other resource projects that China has invested in,” he said.
Suzanne Clark, CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, said in a blog post that her organization is working with the US State Department to host a related CEO summit. The main priorities of the Chamber are strengthening the rule of law and trade with Latin American countries.
“The impact of the pandemic has been compounded by stagnant economic growth and long-standing ills of poverty, inequality, insecurity, corruption and inadequate healthcare,” Clark said. “As the hemisphere emerges from the COVID cloud, new challenges such as rising inflation, particularly in the food and energy sectors, threaten to further expose the region’s vulnerability.”
Harris has emphasized private sector investment to address the region’s challenges, particularly when it comes to reducing migration by providing more economic opportunities in people’s homelands.
“One of the things that is unquestionable is that if we are able to improve the prosperity and stability of our neighbors, we will benefit as a nation,” she told reporters on Wednesday. “Such was the work we did at the Summit to bring CEOs together, heads of state from a number of Western Hemisphere countries will be here to discuss how we can continue working together.”
Boak reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Debora Alvares in Brasilia, Brazil and Elliot Spagat in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/09/biden-seeks-consensus-at-fractured-americas-summit/ Biden seeks consensus at fragmented America summit