The Indo-Pacific framework could also work in Latin America

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President Joe Biden, left, shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during a meeting at the Akasaka Palace State Guesthouse in Tokyo on May 23.

PA

During his May 23 visit to Tokyo, President Joe Biden announced the creation of a 13-nation Asian-American economic bloc, known as the Indo-Pacific Framework. Here, then, is an obvious question: shouldn’t he propose the creation of a similar American-Latin American bloc when he hosts the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles on June 6?

The new Indo-Pacific economic bloc, known as IPEF, is set to replace the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a global trade initiative that included countries in Asia and Latin America around the Pacific Rim. The Obama-era TPP was a US effort to counter China’s growing economic influence in the world, but in 2017 President Donald Trump foolishly pulled the US out of it.

Now Biden has recreated the TPP with less emphasis on free trade — a concession to U.S. unions — and more weight on establishing common norms and rules to facilitate trade and secure supply chains. ‘supply. The IPEF will represent approximately 40% of the global economy and includes the United States, Japan, India, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.

“We are writing the new rules of the 21st century economy,” Biden said during the announcement. “They will help the economies of all our countries grow faster and more equitably.”

Certainly, there are many reasons to be skeptical about the possibility of creating a similar economic initiative between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The term “free trade” has become a dirty word among lawmakers in Washington, DC, and several other capitals. Previous US efforts to create a hemispheric economic zone, including the Free Trade Area of ​​the Americas in the 1990s, were unsuccessful. The negotiations failed due to Latin America’s reluctance to get too close to the United States or American fears that free trade would lead to job losses in the United States.

Moreover, there is little time left to draft an ambitious American-Latin American economic initiative, since the Summit of the Americas is only two weeks away, marred by disagreements and confusion over its participation and its agenda.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has threatened not to attend unless Biden invites the Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan dictatorships. And Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro suggested he could stay at home, but without specifying his motives.

If the two largest Latin American countries are not present, it would be difficult to launch a large hemispheric plan.

But it could be done. After all, there hasn’t been much groundwork for the new US-Asia Indo-Pacific framework. On the contrary, the group’s founding declaration is largely ambitious, and its members have only decided to start negotiating an economic integration agreement.

There’s no reason Biden can’t come up with a similar plan for Latin America. At a time when unemployment in the United States is at record highs and the United States desperately needs alternative supply chains to rely less on imports from China, the United States could at the very least offer a plan to stimulate Latin American exports to the American market.

“The framework that was announced in Japan could provide a way forward for the hemisphere,” says Eric Farnsworth, Washington, DC office chief of the Council of the Americas, a business-focused group. “It sets out a framework for economic and trade cooperation, which is precisely what the hemisphere is asking of Washington.”

Farnsworth added that the upcoming Summit of the Americas was hijacked by discussion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua’s participation, “But that’s only because there were no meaningful U.S. economic initiatives to discuss. in the first place”. As I warned in January, the Biden administration should have started working on this several months ago. Unfortunately, whether due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine or lack of interest, this has not been the case.

Despite the leftward shift in Latin America, many leaders in the region would be happy to sign a special trade deal with Washington. According to a study by the Inter-American Development Bank, Latin America could get $70 billion more in annual exports if it could only produce 10% of the goods the United States currently imports from China.

So let’s be frank: Biden’s announcement with 13 Asian leaders was primarily a statement of goodwill, which can pave the way for meaningful economic negotiations. There is no reason for the United States not to launch a similar initiative with Latin America, and the June 6 summit would be the perfect opportunity to do so.

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This story was originally published May 25, 2022 2:48 p.m.