Ilan Goldfajn

(L-R) IDB's Ilan Goldfajn, World Bank's David Malpass, and AS/COA's Susan Segal at the Washington Conference. (Image: Mark Finkenstaedt)


53rd Washington Conference on the Americas: Opportunities in a New Global Reality 

Held in partnership with the State Department and for the first time at the OAS, the conference convened top U.S. government officials and Latin American leaders to talk trade, energy, and democracy. 

Washington D.C. May 2, 2023—The 53rd annual Washington Conference on the Americas, hosted by the Council of the Americas (COA) and held at the Organization of American States (OAS), on Tuesday, May 2, convened senior United States government officials and leaders from across the Western Hemisphere. The event centered on the theme, "Opportunities in a New Global Reality."

COA Vice President Eric Farnsworth gave welcoming remarks and introduced Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols.

"The common thread that runs through our policy—domestic and foreign—remains making democracy work for all people," said Assistant Secretary Nichols. "Thank you to the Council of the Americas for the opportunity to join you today for a promising conversation on growing hemispheric prosperity and the opportunities for policymakers and the private sector."

In the panel "Reinvigorating the Hemispheric Trade Agenda," U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA); Canada's Minister of International Trade, Expert Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development Mary Ng; and Costa Rica's Minister of Foreign Trade Manuel Tovar discussed the challenges trade faces today in the Western Hemisphere—and ways to confront those obstacles. The conversation was moderated by Vice President Farnsworth.

"I think the United States needs to engage in the Western Hemisphere like it has not in generations," said Dr. Cassidy. "You can argue that it has not been since John F. Kennedy that the United States has had a coherent, consistent, effective Western Hemisphere engagement policy. We see that when the United States engages, it is an incredible benefit to our country."

AS/COA President and CEO Susan Segal moderated a panel featuring the World Bank Group President David Malpass and Inter-American Development Bank President Ilan Goldfajn on strengthening resilience and boosting growth.

"As the world’s top food exporter and a leading source of clean energy, Latin America is uniquely positioned to improve global food security and help the world meet Paris climate goals. To do that, we must change the lens through which we view Latin America, looking beyond the problems it faces and repositioning it as a potential solution to these shared global challenges," said IDB President Ilan Goldfajn to AS/COA before the event.

Segal then interviewed U.S. Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) on U.S. policy in the Americas. "What came to me very clearly [during my recent visit to Latin America] is the United States is the partner of choice. We have great opportunities right before us and we’ve got to seize these opportunities. To the extent that we aren’t there, China will be," said Senator Hagerty. "I think the closer we bring our economic ties, the stronger our strategic ties will be as well."

During a conference break, a special message from Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo was broadcast.

Head of International Government Affairs for Shell Amy Conroy introduced U.S. Department of Energy's Deputy Secretary David Turk for an interview with COA Chairman Andres Gluski on the Western Hemisphere’s critical role in energy transition.

“Latin America is a clean energy powerhouse, and the world cannot achieve its climate and energy security goals without this vital region," said Deputy Secretary Turk. "There is a huge opportunity to strengthen cooperation across the Western Hemisphere to accelerate the clean energy transition and create mutually beneficial economic opportunities."

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai was then interviewed by Vice President Farnsworth on U.S. trade priorities.

"When we look at the rest of the world, I think that we have to be very conscious of where we are," said Trade Representative Tai. "So much of our reality, so much of what defines our opportunity is still about geography and about where we sit in the world and so I think that that is a foundational touchstone for thinking about the U.S. approach to international economic engagement with the Western Hemisphere."

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro concluded the program.

"We need peace to create wealth, which once created should be shared peacefully. This in order to have better democracies, better security, better governance, better politics, thus to be more educated and have better citizens," said Secretary General Almagro.

Secretary General Almagro then introduced former Interim President of Venezuela Juan Guaidó, who gave remarks.

"We stand for poor people, we stand for migrants, we stand for democracy," said former Interim President Guaidó. "We need progress. To achieve progress, we need democracy. We need respect for human rights."

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