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Biden unveils new US economic partnership with Latin America


Hosting the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, Biden sought to assure the assembled leaders about his administration’s commitment to the region

President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday a proposed new US economic partnership with Latin America aimed at countering China’s growing clout as he kicked off a regional summit marred by discord and snubs over the guest list.

Hosting the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, Biden sought to assure the assembled leaders about his administration’s commitment to the region despite nagging concerns that Washington, at times, is still trying to dictate to its poorer southern neighbours.

The line-up of visiting heads of state and government in attendance was thinned down to 21 after Biden excluded Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, prompting Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and several other leaders to stay away in protest.

We have to invest in making sure our trade is sustainable and responsible in creating supply chains that are more resilient, more secure and more sustainable, Biden told a gala opening ceremony.

Biden is seeking to present Latin American countries with an alternative to China that calls for increased US economic engagement, including more investment and building on existing trade deals.

However, his ‘Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity,’ which still appears to be a work in progress, stops short of offering tariff relief and, according to a senior administration official, will initially focus on ‘like-minded partners’ that already have US trade accords. Negotiations are expected to begin in early fall, the official added.

Biden outlined his plan as he launched the summit, which was conceived as a platform to showcase US leadership in reviving Latin American economies and tackling record levels of irregular migration at the US-Mexico border.

But his agenda has been undermined by the partial boycott by leaders upset at Washington’s decision to cut out its main leftist antagonists in the region.

As a result, Biden found himself welcoming a larger-than-normal contingent of foreign ministers sitting in for their national leaders.

US officials hope the summit 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.

Biden also used his speech to preview a summit declaration on migration to be rolled out on Friday, calling it ‘a ground-breaking, integrated new approach’ with shared responsibility across the hemisphere. But he provided few specifics.

Even as Biden deals with priorities such as mass shootings, high inflation and the Ukraine war, the US 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.

The US plan also proposes to revitalize the Inter-American Development Bank and create clean energy jobs.

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

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