Biden targets Latin America reset in tense summit invite

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about gun violence during a prime time address from the White House in Washington, U.S., June 2, 2022. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Register

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY, June 5 (Reuters) – When the United States announced last year that it would host the 2022 Summit of the Americas, officials had high hopes the event would help undo the damage wrought by Trump to relations and to reaffirm the primacy of the United States over China’s growth. influence in Latin America.

But on the eve of next week’s rally in Los Angeles, US President Joe Biden must struggle to pull off a problem-ridden summit before it even begins.

Ideological divisiveness over who to invite, skepticism over U.S. engagement in Latin America and low expectations for major agreements on issues such as migration and economic cooperation have already clouded the event, officials say and analysts.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Register

“The Americans fundamentally misinterpreted the situation by not foreseeing that there would be a fuss over attendance,” said Andres Rozental, Mexico’s former deputy foreign minister, saying the summit was in danger of becoming “dull “.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that the preparations were “more complicated than we had imagined”.

The lower level events start on Monday, then the leaders start arriving. Biden is due to officially open the first US-hosted summit since the inaugural rally in 1994 on Wednesday.

Despite pressing concerns such as inflation, mass shootings and the conflict in Ukraine, Biden aims to re-engage with his southern neighbors to forge a common vision after years of relative neglect under his “America First” predecessor. Donald Trump, who skipped the last summit. in Lima in 2018.

Those hopes have been tempered by wrangling over who will participate. As host, the US can choose who it invites, but early plans indicated that US antagonists Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua would be excluded on the grounds that they are undemocratic.

That upset some leaders, including leftist Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who said he would not go unless all countries in the Americas were invited.

Washington ruled out participation from Venezuela and Nicaragua. It remains unclear whether Communist-ruled Cuba could be represented.

Most regional leaders have signaled they will participate anyway, but hindsight suggests that many Latin American countries are no longer willing to follow Washington’s lead as adamantly as they sometimes were in the past. .

U.S. officials say guest list heckling will explode and the summit will bring progress no matter who attends.

MIGRATION, CHINA

With Biden under pressure from record numbers of migrants on the US southern border, he should seek commitments to curb those flows, especially from Mexico and Central America.

Biden aides say they are working on an “ambitious” migration declaration. But a major breakthrough seems unlikely.

Some Central American leaders are chafing at US demands to tackle government corruption, seen as a driver of migration from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

A senior Biden administration official has sought to downplay the centrality of migration at the top, saying the US’s relationship with Latin America is much broader, citing economics, climate policy and post-recovery the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden officials also want to make the case for keeping Washington as Latin America’s main economic partner to counter China’s incursions.

Reuters Charts

Expert witnesses at a recent US Senate subcommittee hearing on the summit chastised the administration for not doing more to improve relations with the rest of the Americas.

“The region is polarized, COVID-19 has laid bare economic and public health challenges, democracy is slipping back,” said Rebecca Bill Chavez, head of Inter-American Dialogue. “And global rivals are making their financial and political presence strongly felt.”

Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas think tank, wants to see a regional trade initiative similar to the one announced for Indo-Pacific Biden during his Asia tour in May. Read more

This would likely face a US protectionist backlash.

The Biden administration is targeting regional initiatives to bolster the offshoring of supply chains, including medical equipment, and to develop the internet and clean energy.

In parallel, the United States is seeking to deepen regional oil and gas supplies to dry up the cash used to fund the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine and to wean the West off Russian energy.

So far, Washington has had little success in persuading Latin American producers to pump more crude.

Friction may loom if Biden pushes the cause of democratic freedom. US officials have raised concerns about democratic backsliding in countries like Brazil, whose President Jair Bolsonaro is due to meet Biden for the first time. Read more

Marcos Caramuru, Brazil’s former ambassador to China and Malaysia, said he did not expect the summit to bring a major improvement in diplomatic relations, saying Latin America simply did not have as many importance that Asia has for Washington.

“Asia is much more important because it’s more closely tied to US security and China’s containment,” Caramuru said.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Register

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Dave Graham in Mexico City Additional reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia and Adam Jourdan in Buenos Aires Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.