When democracy is under assault around the world, let us unite again and renew our conviction that democracy is... the essential ingredient to Americas' future,' Biden said as he opened the summit
When democracy is under assault around the world, let us unite again and renew our conviction that democracy is… the essential ingredient to Americas’ future,’ Biden said as he opened the summit

The US-led Summit of the Americas had a stacked schedule on Thursday, with tense talks expected between US President Joe Biden and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro as Washington seeks to stem China’s rising influence in the region.

To that end, Biden gave a speech late Wednesday outlining a proposed new economic partnership with Latin America, hoping to sway leaders away from Beijing’s promises to invest in large infrastructure projects.

“We have to invest in making sure our trade is sustainable and responsible in creating supply chains that are more resilient, more secure and more sustainable,” Biden said at the summit’s opening gala.

Biden’s speech stressed increased US economic engagement, including more investment and building on existing trade deals. He also called on leaders in the region to preserve and strengthen democracy.

However, his “Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity,” which still appears to be a work in progress, stops short of offering tariff relief and, according to a senior administration official, will initially focus on “like-minded partners” that already have US trade accords. Negotiations were expected to begin in the next few months, the official added.

The plan also proposes to revitalize the Inter-American Development Bank and create clean energy jobs. Still, the administration appeared to be moving cautiously, mindful that an initiative that promotes jobs abroad could face potential pushback at home.

Mexico snub

The summit got underway under the shadow of one the region’s most important leaders, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, announcing he would skip the meeting in protest of Washington refusing to invite what it called the “dictators” of Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba.

Lopez Obrador instead sent his foreign minister, as did several other leaders, dampening Biden’s hopes for a major reset of relations between the US and Latin America.

Fraught Bolosonaro meeting

There will likely also be tension when Biden meets for the first time with President Bolsonaro, an ally of former President Donald Trump. Bolsonaro is running for a second term, but currently trails slightly in early polls against leftist candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. In the wake of these polls, Bolsonaro has been taking a cue from Trump and been casting doubt on the credibility of his country’s elections.

When Bolsonaro accepted an invitation to the summit, US news agency AP reported that he asked that Biden not confront him over his election attacks, citing three of the Brazilian leader’s Cabinet ministers who requested anonymity to discuss the issue.

However, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, rejected the idea that Biden had agreed to any conditions for the meeting with Bolsonaro.

Also on Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris was scheduled to sit down with Caribbean leaders to discussed environmental protection and climate change, while First Lady Jill Biden would host a brunch for leaders’ spouses.

On Friday, Biden is expected to talk migration, a key issue as more people fleeing violence and economic hardship in Latin America gather at the US-Mexico border. The president has called his new migration plan “a ground-breaking, integrated new approach” with shared responsibility across the hemisphere, but has provided few specifics.

es/msh (AP, Reuters)

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