The last time prior to this weekend that Peru hosted a major international meeting was in late 2016 with leaders from the Asia Pacific. That’s when China’s President Xi Jinping proclaimed his nation to be the main defender of open markets across the region. Simultaneously, newly elected President Donald Trump declared his intention to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership and to rethink U.S. relations with some of our closest allies and friends, particularly in the Western Hemisphere. The tectonic real-time shift in geopolitics was unmistakable.
As leaders from across the Americas now converge in Peru for the VIII Summit of the Americas to discuss corruption (spoiler alert: they’re officially opposed), the world has changed dramatically since the first Summit, hosted by President Bill Clinton in 1994, and not just because of Xi. President Trump is staying away, and the president of Venezuela was disinvited. The host nation president only ascended to his role in late March with the resignation of his predecessor. While progress to contain and hopefully reverse the growing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and to renegotiate NAFTA are possible at the margins, a robust consensus-based plan of action is unlikely.
This is, as they say, an opportunity missed. The United States has a unique relationship with the nations of the Western Hemisphere based on history, culture, economic links, and political ideals. China is no doubt a challenge in the hemisphere and across the world, but a confident, outward-looking United States would recognize that China cannot supplant the United States in the region without our active acquiescence.