WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden plunged into this week’s Summit of the Americas in a bid to advance regional progress in addressing economic development, climate change and migration despite the absence of some notable counterparts from Latin America.
As the United States hosted the rally for the first time since 1994, Biden and his team set out to strengthen relationships and move past the considerable drama world leaders would attend.
“At this summit,” Biden said in his opening remarks Wednesday evening, “we have an opportunity to come together around bold ideas, ambitious actions, and to demonstrate to our people the incredible power of democracies. delivering real benefits and making life better for everyone. Everyone.”
The US president was due to spend Thursday sitting down with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, as well as delivering a speech to the full in attendance. Vice President Kamala Harris was scheduled to meet with Caribbean leaders to talk clean energy, and First Lady Jill Biden was hosting a brunch to bond with other spouses.
The day should end with dinner at the Getty Villa, an art museum overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
A series of activists from the United States and dissidents from the region gathered around the Los Angeles Convention Center, where most of the meetings take place, to promote their causes.
There could be tension when Biden first meets Bolsonaro, an ally of former President Donald Trump. Bolsonaro is seeking a second term and has questioned 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 with his election attacks, according to three of the Brazilian leader’s cabinet ministers who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the issue.
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, dismissed the idea that Biden agreed to any terms of the meeting with Bolsonaro.
“There are no off-limits topics in the president’s bilateral relationship, including with President Bolsonaro,” Sullivan told reporters. He added, “I anticipate the president will discuss open, free, fair and transparent democratic elections.”
Biden began emphasizing the theme 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 United States resisted because it sees them as authoritarian.
In the end, no agreement could be reached and López Obrador decided not to attend. Neither did the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Honduran Foreign Relations Secretary Eduardo Enrique Reina spoke about President Xiomara Castro’s decision to stay away.
“The president was very clear that this should be a summit with no exclusions,” Reina said. Still, he said the Honduran government was ready to work on common issues, saying, “The political will to work with all countries in the Americas is there.
It’s a reminder that relations with Latin America have proven tricky for the administration even as it cements ties in Europe, where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked closer cooperation, and in Asia. , where the growing influence of China has shaken some countries in the region.
One of the challenges is the undeniable power imbalance in the hemisphere. World Bank data shows the US economy is more than 14 times the size of Brazil, the second-largest economy at the top. The sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies on Russia are much tougher on Brazil, which imports fertilizer from Russia. And trade data indicates that the region has deep ties with China, which has also invested in the region.
That leaves the United States in a position 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 promised that the United States will “invest specific funds to produce tangible results” in the region, with training for workers and money for food security, among others.
“When you add it all up and look at the practical impact of what the deliverables of the US summit will mean for the public sphere, it has far more impact on the actual lives and livelihoods of people in this region. than the types of extractive projects China has invested in,” he said.
Suzanne Clark, CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, said in a blog post that her organization is partnering with the US State Department to host a related CEO Summit. The chamber’s main priorities are strengthening the rule of law and trade with Latin American countries.
“The impact of the pandemic has been exacerbated by stagnating economic growth and longstanding ills such as poverty, inequality, insecurity, corruption and inadequate health care,” Clark said. “As the hemisphere emerges from the cloud of COVID, new challenges such as rising inflation, particularly in the food and energy sectors, threaten to further expose the region’s fragility. “
Harris emphasized private sector investment to address challenges in the region, especially when it comes to reducing migration by providing more economic opportunities in people’s countries of origin.
“One of the things that there is no doubt about, when we are able to improve the prosperity and stability of our neighbors, we benefit as a nation,” she told reporters on Wednesday. “So the work that we did at the summit was to bring together CEOs, heads of state from a number of countries in the western hemisphere are going to be here to discuss how we can continue to collaborate .”
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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