Biden presses chief execs to help boost Latin American economies

Biden presses chief execs to help boost Latin American economies

LOS ANGELES: President Joe Biden urged top US business executives yesterday to help bolster his plan for an environmentally-friendly economic partnership with Latin America on the first full day of a regional summit riven by tensions over the guest list.

Speaking at a US Chamber of Commerce-sponsored conference in Los Angeles, Biden made a pitch for increased investment in the economies of America’s southern neighbours to spur pandemic recovery and help address root causes of irregular migration to the United States.

The summit was conceived as an opportunity to reassert US leadership and counter China’s growing economic inroads in the region. But Biden’s agenda has been undercut by a partial boycott by leaders protesting the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Telling executives they have an important role in the region’s future, Biden said: “The private sector is able to move quickly to mobilise vast amounts of investment capital, as you’re going to be needed to unlock the enormous potential for growth in this hemisphere.”

Biden’s schedule yesterday included the summit’s opening plenary session heavily focused on clean energy initiatives followed by his first formal encounter with his Brazilian counterpart, a noted climate change sceptic.

He outlined his proposed “Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity” to the conference, saying it was aimed at bringing supply chains closer to home, reforming the Inter-American Development Bank, streamlining investment and kicking climate actions “into high gear”.

But the plan, which appears to be a work in progress lacking many specifics, stops short of offering tariff relief and will initially focus on countries that already have US trade accords.

Taking a veiled dig at China, Biden said: “We want to make sure our closest neighbours have a real choice between the debt trap development that has become … more and more common in the region, and the high-quality transparent approach to infrastructure investment that delivers lasting gains for workers and families.”

US officials have openly accused China of pushing deals in the developing world with strings attached to saddle their partners with long-term debt.

The business gathering aimed at strengthening regional economic ties and bringing supply chains back from Asia to counter disruptions was running parallel to the summit.

With problems at the US-Mexico border also high on Biden’s list of priorities, leaders were poised to issue a declaration today pledging measures to curb irregular migration and help countries hosting large number of migrants to cope with them, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the document was final.

Biden on Thursday was due to chair leaders’ talks aimed at promoting energy security as Western powers try to lower their dependence on oil and gas from Russia. – Reuters

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