Shadow Government

A front-row seat to the Republicans' debate over foreign policy, including their critique of the Biden administration.

We need a strategic pivot to Latin America

By Ambassador Roger F. Noriega and José R. Cárdenas Last week, ahead of President Obama’s meeting with the Business Roundtable, the Roundtable and the U.S. Council for International Business released a report saying that, "the success of American companies, and of the U.S. workers they employ, increasingly hinges on their success as globally engaged companies." ...

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

By Ambassador Roger F. Noriega and José R. Cárdenas

Last week, ahead of President Obama's meeting with the Business Roundtable, the Roundtable and the U.S. Council for International Business released a report saying that, "the success of American companies, and of the U.S. workers they employ, increasingly hinges on their success as globally engaged companies."

Indeed, there is some optimism in Washington that President Obama, free from political constraints in his second term (i.e., Big Labor opposition to free trade), can implement a robust international trade agenda as a sure-fire way to create new jobs at home, markets for U.S. goods and services, and investment opportunities abroad.  Much of that talk is focused on action regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a trans-Atlantic free-trade agreement with Europe.

By Ambassador Roger F. Noriega and José R. Cárdenas

Last week, ahead of President Obama’s meeting with the Business Roundtable, the Roundtable and the U.S. Council for International Business released a report saying that, "the success of American companies, and of the U.S. workers they employ, increasingly hinges on their success as globally engaged companies."

Indeed, there is some optimism in Washington that President Obama, free from political constraints in his second term (i.e., Big Labor opposition to free trade), can implement a robust international trade agenda as a sure-fire way to create new jobs at home, markets for U.S. goods and services, and investment opportunities abroad.  Much of that talk is focused on action regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a trans-Atlantic free-trade agreement with Europe.

We have just co-authored a paper for the American Enterprise Institute — "An action plan for US policy in the Americas" — the essence of which can be distilled down to the following: Mr. President, stop ignoring Latin America!

If the President’s objective is to use trade to help jump-start the U.S. economy and create more jobs here at home, then Latin America has to be part of the equation.  That’s because when you look beyond the rogue behavior of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and his populist ilk, clearly the Western Hemisphere is home to some of the most dynamic markets in the world.

Since 2003, an estimated 73 million Latin Americans have risen out of poverty. Moreover, between then and 2010, the average Latin American income increased by more than 30 percent, meaning that today nearly one-third of the region’s nearly 570 million population is considered middle class. And in just the next five years, regional economies are projected to expand by one-third.

Given the Americas’ close historical, cultural, familial, and geographic ties, linked by common values and mutual interests, what that means for U.S. businesses is millions of new consumers with an ingrained affinity for U.S. goods and services. 

Greater economic integration will also create momentum to deal with other challenges in the region, from security issues to modernizing immigration policy — not to mention rendering obsolete once and for all the retrograde populist agendas of some who prefer looking to the past rather than the future.

It’s time that U.S. policymakers dispensed once and for all with Old Think when it comes to Latin America: that is, what is it the U.S. can do for the region.  Today, it is what we can do together to benefit all the peoples of the hemisphere and boost our own recovery and competitiveness. If President Obama is to pursue an aggressive trade agenda in his second term, the incentives are powerful for a fundamental reassessment of relations right here in our own hemisphere.

José R. Cárdenas was acting assistant administrator for Latin America at the U.S. Agency for International Development in the George W. Bush administration.

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.