Biden Confronts Deep Skepticism of U.S. Agenda in Latin America

By Ari Hawkins

The region "want(s) the United States to be there, so basically, we need to rethink our approach," said AS/COA's Eric Farnsworth to Politico.

President Joe Biden is facing growing pressure from fellow Democrats and foreign allies to flesh out an economic partnership with Latin America that the White House has promised will tackle immigration, regional trade and China’s efforts to expand its influence in the region.

That pressure will be on display in Washington on Friday, when Biden hosts leaders from the Western Hemisphere to discuss the pact, which he first rolled out in June 2022. It was supposed to respond to Latin American leaders’ calls for more trade and investment opportunities with the U.S. But the lack of detail and shifting format of the agreement are drawing criticism from lawmakers and skepticism from regional leaders.

The White House’s efforts to tie the agreement to its own domestic agenda — suggesting better economic integration in the region will help address the root causes of migration from the South — are likely only to deepen Latin American negotiators’ concerns that what was supposed to be an economic package for the region is getting hijacked by U.S. election politics. All the while, China continues to expand its economic reach in the hemisphere. [...]

"There’s been a lot of attention from China, in particular, but we’re fiddling while Rome is burning," said Eric Farnsworth, vice president at the Council of Americas, a coalition of businesses from the Western Hemisphere.

"The region isn’t necessarily in love with China or the model that they present. They want alternatives. They want the United States to be there, so basically, we need to rethink our approach," argued Farnsworth.

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