U.S. Vice President Kamala D. Harris

U.S. Vice President Kamala D. Harris


51st Annual Washington Conference on the Americas: Restoring a Partnership for Sustainable Growth

High-level officials from Biden Administration gave exclusive remarks on their Latin American policy.

Washington D.C. May 4, 2021—U.S. Vice President Kamala D. Harris gave an overview of the Biden administration’s Latin America policy agenda during the 51st Annual Washington Conference on the Americas, co-hosted by the Council of the Americas and the U.S. Department of State on Tuesday, May 4. “The Western Hemisphere is our home. And because it is our home, because the people within it [are] our neighbors, it is imperative that we promote democracy and good governance, security and prosperity within the region,” said the vice president as the opening keynote speaker in an event that featured senior U.S. government officials and leaders from across the Western Hemisphere to discuss the event’s theme: “Democratic, Prosperous, Secure: Restoring a Partnership for Sustainable Growth.” The speakers covered ways to collaborate with regional partners to move the Americas forward in 2021 and beyond.  

“Democratic, prosperous, and secure…these core values continue to offer guideposts for recovery and, ultimately, optimism for partnership and collective actions to build the hemisphere back better,” said Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA) Vice President Eric Farnsworth in his welcoming remarks. AS/COA President and CEO Susan Segal followed saying that the organization is “committed to being a voice for the region in the face of so many pressing issues.”  

Segal introduced Julie Chung, Acting Assistant Secretary, Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. State Department, who highlighted the economic challenges for the region. “As we rebuild our economies, we must redouble our efforts to promote inclusive economic growth, fight corruption, and bolster democratic institutions. Working together, we strengthen local capacity and deliver high-quality investments that are sustainable over the long term. The year ahead is a critically important one for us to embrace with all the energy we can, ” said Chung. 

The vice president, introduced by AS/COA Chairman Andrés Gluski, addressed emigration from Latin America, particularly the Northern Triangle. “The citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras are leaving their homes at alarming rates. But there is a fundamental truth behind that headline: people do not want to leave their homes [and] communities. They leave only when they feel they must,” she said. “Our administration wants to help. We want to help people find hope at home. And so, we are focused on addressing both the acute factors and the root causes of migration. And I believe this is an important distinction: we must focus on both.” 

In conversation with Segal, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas emphasized the need for partnership in the Americas. “Within the U.S. Government, the Department of Homeland Security is a convener among our nations across the Western Hemisphere on a range of security and trade issues. These partnerships advance a view of collective security. We need one another. Our security and economic success are both inextricably linked to that of our friend and partner countries in the Americas,” said Mayorkas. “When we perform our work well, our people are free to pursue opportunities and raise their families in safe, stable, and secure nations. They are free to dream about their future and their children’s future.” 

Following an introduction by Chevron President Clay Neff, U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks provided Susan Segal with a congressional viewpoint when discussing his goal to “help reset the United States’ relationship with the rest of the world.” He emphasized that an important aspect of foreign policy is to “lead with humility,” adding, “I look forward to locking arms with you [and] making our relationship with our neighbors in Central and South America and the Caribbean more promising than ever and our hemisphere stronger than ever.” He also said that he had called on President Biden to prioritize Latin America and Caribbean countries when loaning surplus vaccines. 

In a discussion with Farnsworth, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai focused her remarks on a new outlook on trade, after being introduced by General Motors Interim Senior VP Elizabeth Reicherts. "Our trade policy must take a fundamentally different approach. For far too long, we’ve overlooked the effect of our trade policies on individual workers. The U.S. Trade Representative’s worker-centered trade policy will foster broad-based, equitable growth," said Tai.  

Moderated by Shery Ahn from Bloomberg Television, the panel “Building the Regional Recovery Agenda” gathered Roberto Alvarez, Dominican Minister of Foreign Affairs; Julie Gerberding, Executive Vice President and Chief Patient Officer, Merck & Co., Inc.; and Reina Irene Mejía, Executive Vice President, Inter-American Development Bank. The panelists discussed the public health, economic, and inequality crises affecting the region. 

Next, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo spoke with Farnsworth about Latin America in the global economy and opportunities for growth. Raimondo said that she wanted to work to create conditions in which companies and entrepreneurs can drive private growth. “Our efforts to address challenges across the region cannot and should not be developed by government alone,” she said. “Our private sectors must also be key partners in enhancing regional competitiveness, increasing regional stability, and promoting democratic values. We need to recognize them as strategic assets that underpin our economic vitality.” 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken then took the virtual stage. "Thank you for being our neighbors and partners on so many crucial issues facing the people of our countries,” he said. “We’re grateful for your friendship. And we look forward to working with leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector across the hemisphere to meet the urgent challenges and seize the opportunities of our time." 

To close out the conference, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry offered an overview of the regional agenda to combat climate change. He said that in the Western Hemisphere, the climate crisis “exacerbates political instability and adds to the humanitarian crisis.” 

In closing, Kerry said Washington would seek to strengthen partnerships with Latin America and the Caribbean. “As each of us seeks to recover from the havoc that Covid has wreaked on our economies, we can build back better. We can create millions of new jobs in the region by investing in clean energy,” said Kerry.   


For more information, please contact AS/COA Media Relations at mediarelations@as-coa.org.  

To get conference materials, summaries, multimedia, and more visit: http://www.as-coa.org/2021wca  

Follow the conversation on Twitter: #2021WCA