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AQ Feature

Our pragmatic approach marks a clean break from ideologically driven, outmoded definitions of foreign policy.

[i] Does the Obama adminstration have a foreign policy for Latin America? [b]Yes[/b][/i]
Illustration courtesy of Wesley Bedrosian.

The Americas are our shared home. To build a stronger and more resilient neighborhood, the Obama administration is promoting a safe, stable, prosperous, and democratic hemisphere where the United States and our partners share responsibility on key regional and global issues.

In keeping with the President’s National Security Strategy, we are leveraging our deep ties and working as equal partners to enhance common security, expand economic opportunity, secure a clean energy future, and defend shared democratic values.

Our pragmatic approach marks a clean break from ideologically driven, outmoded definitions of foreign policy.  So, too, does our embrace of change in the Americas and our understanding that the U.S. must play a critical role in tackling the key challenges facing the people of the Americas today.

Personal insecurity—often driven by transnational criminal organizations (TCOs)—pervades the Americas, threatening our security, hampering regional prosperity and undermining democratic governance. To confront it, we have dedicated unprecedented resources, including the recent $600 million Southwest Border supplemental appropriation to interdict illicit flows of weapons and money from the U.S. to Latin America and the Caribbean and to disrupt criminal financing and other TCO operations in the United States. Recognizing the importance of demand reduction, we have invested more than $10 billion in drug treatment and prevention in our first two years, increasing such funding by 10 percent from the previous two years.

Because the reach of TCOs demands multinational responses, we are also pursuing comprehensive security partnerships across the Americas, particularly in the greater Caribbean Basin. With Mexico, we have established a four-pillar strategy:  1) to dismantle TCO operational capacity; 2) to support sustainable rule of law institutions; 3) to create a twenty-first-century border with shared management to promote the secure flow of goods and trade and the joint targeting of illicit activities; and 4) to foster resilient communities to deny illegal groups fertile recruitment grounds. In partnership with Caribbean nations, we are implementing a new $124 million Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. We have expanded cooperation through the Central America Regional Security Initiative and are helping consolidate security gains in Colombia and Peru. Through trilateral engagement we are also encouraging security cooperation between key partners like Colombia and Canada.

At the same time, we have deepened our military and humanitarian assistance through robust relationships in the Americas. Examples include transparent defense and military cooperation to enhance support for civilian authorities, foster humanitarian relief and disaster assistance cooperation, and promote responsible modernization. To promote security, we have worked with defense ministries, signed Defense Cooperation Agreements with Colombia and Brazil, and engaged in military-to-military partnerships. This shared responsibility was evident in the partnership between the U.S. military and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in post-earthquake Haiti.

Rebuilding our economic foundation at home profoundly benefits the Americas, a region that is central to the President’s commitment to promoting balanced global growth and economic opportunity. Large and small countries in the Americas benefited from our lending through crisis response work with our G-20 partners, which mobilized $1 trillion in new lending capacity for international financial institutions. The President’s embrace of the G-20 as the preeminent global economic forum has strengthened the global voice of large economies in the region. The U.S. also has championed International Monetary Fund quota reform to allow Brazil to become one of its 10 largest shareholders.

To fuel inclusive growth, our focus is also on the poorest of the region. Our remittance policies are aimed at ensuring that remittances reach their intended recipients and that flows are leveraged to lower capital costs. We also joined with other Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) shareholders to add $70 billion to the IDB’s capital—doubling its annual lending capacity and reforming lending practices to focus more sharply on the poor and on regional integration. With various countries assuming leadership roles, a refashioned Pathways to Prosperity initiative ensures that economic growth and integration promote socioeconomic inclusion. For example, the region rallied around a U.S. proposal to cancel Haiti’s $800 million debt to international financial institutions, mobilizing $2.5 billion in IDB grants over 10 years.

Another key element of our engagement in the region is energy and climate. The Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) is tackling the effects of climate change and the toll that dependence on energy imports takes on economic growth, stability and governance. Launched by President Obama, ECPA is a flexible partnership between Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador, Peru, the U.S., and others aimed at making concrete progress on low-carbon communities, sustainable urban development and planning, renewable energy, and electrical interconnections.

Bilateral partnerships reinforce our clean energy agenda at home. We are building new transmission lines to take U.S. wind energy to markets in Canada, creating U.S. jobs. Similarly, the Export-Import Bank has helped finance exports of U.S.-manufactured wind turbines to Mexico, supporting jobs at home and clean energy production in Mexico. Similar cooperation with Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Chile advance a clean energy future and contribute to economic growth.

Finally, we continue our long-standing commitment to strengthen institutions of democratic governance vital to across-the-board progress. We have steadfastly promoted human rights, press freedom and electoral transparency. We have advanced social inclusion by helping establish the Inter-American Social Protection Network to strengthen the capacity of national social development agencies to formulate and implement effective and efficient poverty eradication policies and programs for at-risk poor.

Our engagement as equal partners in the Americas has created space for others to speak up in defense of shared democratic values. We set aside past divisions to shape a consensus that Cuba’s participation in the OAS requires it to abide by core democratic principles. The collective invocation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and efforts to restore democracy in Honduras strengthened those principles, as have calls to respect press freedoms.

Significant work remains to advance our agenda. President Obama is committed to fixing our broken immigration system, but he cannot do it alone. He will continue to reach out to Republicans and Democrats to join him in pursuing a comprehensive solution that restores responsibility for the system to all parties—the federal government, employers and immigrants.  The President also looks forward to working with the Panamanian and Colombian governments, Congress and interested stakeholders to resolve outstanding issues related to pending trade agreements with those countries.

Going forward, we will continue our efforts as equal partners to build a better future for the people of the Americas.

Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: U.S. Foreign Policy, Market Access, Dan Restrepo