Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Obama’s Latin American Trip: Unlocking Hemispheric Partnerships

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on March 15, 2011

by Susan Segal for Council of the Americas – Americas Society, March 14th, 2011.

President Barack Obama embarks on his first trip to South and Central America since taking office when he visits Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador starting Saturday. The trip is long overdue. It now offers an enormous opportunity for Obama and the United States. Latin America is booming, with strong growth rates and historic levels of investment. But, most importantly, it is a part of the world with which we share so much in common, including values; an economic model; a strong commitment to democracy, human rights, and economic empowerment; and a belief that a vibrant, entrepreneurial private sector is critical. A successful trip could be measured as one in which Obama and the leaders of the visited countries better understand the shared vision before us. It has the potential to show our neighbors that we can build a partnership based on mutual respect that will endure because it is in the best interest of all parties.

The president will kick off his five-day tour in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro. This stop in itself is a historic one; both leaders represent “firsts” for their respective countries, with Obama as the first African American U.S. president and Dilma Rousseff as the first Brazilian female president. Rousseff is just months into her presidency and has been vocal about her support for stronger U.S. ties. Obama’s “winning the future” strategy represents a huge opportunity, not just for the United States, but for the hemisphere as well.

In Brazil, there will be an official public sector and a private sector agenda—a theme of huge interest to the United States, given that Brazil represents 42 percent of the region’s GDP and just surpassed Italy as the seventh largest economy in the world. Furthermore, its market and rising middle class (36 million people have joined the middle class and 28 million have emerged from extreme poverty in Brazil since 2003) offer a market for U.S. exports. Growing Brazilian infrastructure needs present a huge opportunity for many U.S. companies. Washington can learn from Brazil’s 25-year-plus strategy to focus on alternative energy production while Brazilian social development programs such as its income-transfer program Bolsa Familia serve as a model for poverty reduction. (continue reading… )


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