The Summit of the Americas brings together heads of state, industry, and diplomatic corps from the Western Hemisphere and is an opportunity for the United States to reaffirm our commitment and responsibility to build a sustainable, resilient, and equitable future across the region.
Under leadership of the Biden and Harris administration, the United States has a renewed commitment to prioritize ambitious proposals that help nations in the Western Hemisphere, which was the case regarding the 2005 Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement. Over the past years, we have witnessed our strategic competitors and adversaries try to extend their economic, political, military, and technological influence across Latin America and the Caribbean. Recognizing this growing and dangerous trend, the U.S. must implement a bold, strategic multi-stakeholder vision in close cooperation with allied nations for mutual benefit. The Summit of the Americas presents an opportunity to do just that.
As we approach this momentous week to host the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, marking the second time that the United States has hosted this esteemed conference of leaders, we must bring concrete legislative ideas to the table to reassure our neighbors and partners in the Western Hemisphere that we are invested in a thriving Western Hemisphere.
There is growing belief that the Biden administration will use the upcoming gathering to expand and reassert its commitment to the nearshoring of key sectors and supply chains. Last month, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen expressed support for the “friend-shoring of supply chains” to trusted partners so we can extend market access and lower the risks to our economy by no longer being “reliant on countries where we have geopolitical tensions.” The nearshoring efforts thus far, are a testament of the administration’s refreshing approach to the region, and there is bipartisan support in Congress to do this.
This blossoming consensus around the nearshoring – and expansion in co-production – of key sectors in the Western Hemisphere is inspired by several undeniable factors. Chief among them is the promise of economic opportunity and its prospective to help address the root causes of migration. Additionally, both parties are troubled by the United States’ waning influence in the region and over reliance on strategic competitors for key products and materials, which threatens our national security and ability to respond to geopolitical threats.
Over the past two decades, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has expanded its economic and security ties throughout the Western Hemisphere by investing in the region’s infrastructure, energy, space industries, and becoming South America’s largest trading partner. Since 2017, at least 20 countries in the Western Hemisphere have joined the CCP’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has funneled billions in loans to the region. These inroads by the CCP – and the absence of an American alternative – were quickly identified by the Biden administration through the Build Back Better World Partnership.
Economic factors and lessons learned over the past few years also contributed to Congress’s support for nearshoring. In the early stages of COVID-19, our ability to source personal protective equipment (PPE) and other key materials was compromised due to our supply chains being over reliant on strategic competitors. Thankfully, our domestic textile industry stepped up and demonstrated that the hemisphere possesses the ability to forge its own path forward without sacrificing access or affordability. But the issue of supply chains, costs of cross-pacific shipping, inflation, and the influence of adversaries in the Western Hemisphere still needs to be addressed.
To address these pressing issues, I introduced the Opportunities in the Americas Act along with Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-Fla.) to expand critical supply chains in the Americas and economic opportunity throughout the Western Hemisphere. In addition, I introduced my Las Americas Energy Security Act to establish a sovereign lending program in the Western Hemisphere that will support our partners during this critical time, when energy prices and climate change pose a direct threat to the stability of the region. These two initiatives complement my bipartisan bill, the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Authorization Act, which just passed the House and reaffirms our commitment to security and prosperity in the Caribbean.
During the Ninth Summit of the Americas, we must fulfill our promise to the Western Hemisphere and fulfill our commitment to build a sustainable, resilient, and equitable future for the region.
Espaillat represents the 13th District of New York and is a member of the Appropriations Committee.