Analysts: Expect More of the Same for the U.S. Trade Approach to Latin America

If ties between Mercosur countries loosen, the U.S. could have a "huge opportunity," said AS/COA's Eric Farnsworth to Inside U.S. Trade.

The U.S. is unlikely to significantly alter its trade policy toward Latin America as the 2024 election approaches, analysts tell Inside U.S. Trade, predicting the continued slow development of the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity as well as further discussion of an expanded U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

The administration's trade approach to Latin America has centered on APEP, officially launched last January but largely out of public view until a leaders’ summit in November, when the partner countries announced the initiative would have three tracks covering trade, finance and foreign affairs. Following the summit, the leaders issued a declaration urging their trade ministers to “develop inclusive and sustainable approaches to trade and investment that will support regional sustainable development and resilient supply chains for goods and services, enhance a predictable and transparent regulatory environment that can boost trade flows, and remove barriers to greater economic integration among our countries.”

The leaders also announced annual ministerial meetings to “ensure progress along each of the three tracks,” in addition to a biennial leaders' meeting, with Costa Rica offering to host the next one in 2025, according to a November White House fact sheet. Progress on APEP, and on trade policy in Latin America writ large, however, is likely to remain slow in 2024 because of the presidential election, analysts told Inside U.S. Trade.

“This is going to be an election year and trade is never a priority during a U.S. election year,” said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas. Trade politics are “by definition not going to be top of mind for a lot of people,” he added. Farnsworth said the administration would continue its “fundamental rethink of what trade is.”

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