Latin America Advisor

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Will the Summit of the Americas Lead to Lasting Change?

Photo of Biden at Summit of the Americas

The Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles featured a call from U.S. President Joe Biden for progress on issues including migration, economic development and climate change. Biden also used the gathering of Western Hemisphere leaders to announce the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, an effort to drive growth, and countries launched the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, a new framework for managing migration. How much progress did the Americas make on shared areas of concern at the summit? What will the gathering lead to in terms of policy changes and improved cooperation in the hemisphere? To what extent did the boycott of some leaders, including Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, over the U.S. decision not to invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua to the summit, hinder progress? Did the summit meet expectations and achieve its objectives?

Dan Restrepo, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former special assistant to the president and senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the U.S. National Security Council: “The success or failure of the 9th Summit of the Americas will not be measured by the absence of any leader or group of leaders, which had no impact on the most important issue addressed in Los Angeles. Rather, it will depend largely on the implementation of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, which has the chance to be the most meaningful achievement at a forum that, since its inception in 1994, has been long on personality dramas and short on substantive accomplishments. The Los Angeles Declaration opens the way to a coherent approach to addressing irregular migration that is almost certain to continue. Its successful implementation could both close 30 years of failed U.S. border-centric crisis management of migration and adequately resource efforts by countries across Latin America and the Caribbean to absorb millions forced to flee Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba and Nicaragua. It could lead to an era in which efforts to catalyze economic stabilization and reactivation; expand legal pathways, including temporary labor and protection mechanisms; more effectively target human smuggling organizations; and coordinate rapid response to emergent migration events could usher in a new era in hemispheric migration management. Beyond the declaration, a series of key U.S. government deliverables—the launching of the Central American Service Corps, the continued growth of the Partnership for Central America, significant investments in food security—also contribute to the possibility of the Los Angeles summit being a clear turning point toward a more integrated hemisphere-wide effort to mitigate, manage and order migration”

Roberta Lajous, former Mexican ambassador to Cuba, Bolivia and Spain: “This Summit of the Americas will be remembered for being the first one to address migration as a crisis that affects all countries of the hemisphere. From Alaska to Patagonia, most countries are either losing the most dynamic agents of change in society or are absorbing migrants outside the law, creating a vulnerable and exploited underclass. The measures proposed by the Los Angeles Declaration, which at first sight appear meager, must be carefully analyzed and experienced on the ground in order to measure their impact and, if necessary, improved. The Los Angeles summit also addressed changes in the world order that have shown the fragility of global supply chains after the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic sanctions that followed the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Amid growing competition from China, the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, announced by President Biden, will hopefully bring new opportunities for the hemisphere through ‘nearshoring’ or ‘ally-shoring.’ U.S. conflict with other world powers has increased regional cooperation in the past, and the current conflict with Russia over the war in Ukraine will probably be no exception. The absence of President López Obrador from the summit fortunately has not hindered the advancement of bilateral or regional agendas: he will visit Washington in July. Also, the Joint Statement on Canada-Mexico-United States Cooperation, which resulted from the meeting of the three foreign ministers in Los Angeles, announced that the next North American Leaders Summit will take place in Mexico next December.”

Rubens Barbosa, former ambassador of Brazil to the United States: “The 9th Summit of the Americas happened at a difficult moment for the United States, with a clear priority on the war in Ukraine and the disputes with China. The central idea of the United States in the summit was the proposal of an Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, which is intended to challenge the growing Chinese influence in the region. The package included a declaration on immigration, the creation of a health corps for the Americas and $12 million to Colombia and Brazil for preservation of the Amazon. All proposals need to be refined in a more detailed way and have not shown how cooperation could be improved. The decision not to invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua proved to be detrimental to U.S. interests given the negative reaction from Mexico and four other countries that decided to boycott and downplay the summit for this reason. Given the low priority of the summit and the way in which it was prepared, the expectations and objectives of the countries of the hemisphere were not high. Its poor results reinforced this perception. The United States missed a good opportunity to retake leadership in the region when it is facing a growing economic and trade challenge by China and Russia. The dialogue between the United States and Latin America and Caribbean countries is today at one of its worst moments since the end of the Cold War.” 

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