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Summit Latest: Blinken Defends US Exclusion of Autocracies

·7 min read

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden is hosting the final day of the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, a gathering intended to deepen ties between the US and Western Hemisphere countries that has nonetheless exposed clear regional divisions.

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The US has announced a series of agreements with countries in the region on economic cooperation, health care, climate change and migration, but they come with little fresh investment by Washington.

The impact of a new migration accord to be unveiled Friday is particularly suspect, as Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the leaders of three Central American countries that produce much of the irregular migration to the US all declined invitations to the summit.

Close to 20 leaders, including the President of Brazil and the Prime Minister of Canada, together with the head of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, are scheduled to deliver speeches on Friday. The event will wrap up with three official stakeholder forums occurring at the same time to promote greater dialog between the region’s government and its people and businesses.

Key Developments

  • Biden’s Lackluster Los Angeles Summit Exposes Divided Hemisphere

  • Brazil Seeks US Help to Stop Illegal Trade of Amazon Timber

  • Bolsonaro Says Meeting With Biden ‘Sensational’

  • Bolsonaro Fears Worst as Writer, Expert Missing in Amazon

(All times are Los Angeles, Pacific Time.)

Blinken Defends US Exclusion of Autocracies (5:12 p.m.)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the Biden administration decision to exclude the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela from the summit, saying that members of civil society from the countries who came to Los Angeles better represent their people.

“I would argue that they are more representative of the people in those respective countries than their current governments or regimes,” Blinken said at a news conference Friday to conclude the summit.

“I know some people like to focus on differences of opinion in who was here, but everyone was fully united on what we did here,” Blinken said.

The decision angered some Latin American leaders who argued the summit should include all nations in the hemisphere. But the Biden administration wanted a major theme of the summit to be the importance of democratic government.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and some other leaders refused invitations to Los Angeles over the issue, sending cabinet officials instead.

Diplomat Says US Tops China in Latin American Influence (4:55 p.m.)

The State Department’s top diplomat for Latin American insisted US influence continues to top China’s in the Western hemisphere, citing aid to Central America and the Biden administration’s donations of more than 70 million Covid-19 shots to the region’s countries.

“When you look at what we’ve done, the Chinese pale in comparison,” Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols said in an interview on Friday.

“But we recognize as a hemisphere, we need to work together as partners, not as the US as the boss telling people what to do, but as partners to advance the shared values that we have,” he said.

China has invested and loaned billions of dollars to Latin American countries in recent years, and the Beijing government accused the US this week of trying to fence-off the region from outside influence, calling Washington “selfish.”

Blinken said Friday at his news conference that the US provides about $1.3 trillion in direct foreign investment in the Americas annually.

Caribbean Nations Blame Rich Countries for Environmental Degradation (2:30 p.m.)

The Caribbean countries had great expectations ahead of this summit, with leaders awaiting a new US-Caribbean climate and energy partnership that the White House launched launched on Thursday. These nations are among the hardest impacted by climate change while their tourism industries were upended by Covid-19.

On Friday, some of the small Caribbean island urged more action against climate change -- saying it was one of the main drivers of irregular migration and ballooning debt in the region. Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said large industrialized countries that fuel climate degradation had a moral obligation to help nations where the weather phenomenon was most pronounced.

“Our countries have suffered and continue to suffer even though we are the least contributors to climate change,” he said. “This is one of the greatest injustices that exists today. And it requires the attention of the United States and others.”

He also urged Washington to work more closely with China in the region.

“We recognize that the United States alone cannot do everything,” he said. “Hence we urge cooperation between the U.S. govt and other governments such as a China, which is playing a constructive role in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Biden Unveils 20-Country Pact to Manage Migrants (2:04 p.m.)

Biden announced a 20-country accord on regional migration, addressing an issue that is not only politically fraught in the US but burdens many other countries in Latin America.

“We know that safe, orderly, legal migration is good for all our economies,” Biden said. “But we need to halt the dangerous and unlawful ways people are migrating, the dangerous ways. Unlawful migration is not acceptable.”

The pact, billed by the White House as the capstone of the Los Angeles summit, proposes financial aid for countries hosting large numbers of migrants as well as nations with high emigration. The declaration is a non-binding set of principles that includes expanding legal pathways to live and work, financial assistance for communities affected by migration, coordinated emergency responses and more humane border enforcement.

Countries like Ecuador and Colombia have pledged to provide temporary status for hundreds of thousands more people fleeing Venezuela, while Canada and Spain promised to accept more migrant workers from Mexico and Central America. The US pledged $314 million in humanitarian assistance for migrants, including people who have fled Venezuela, as well as modest increases in temporary work visas and refugee resettlement.

The US has been the most popular destination for asylum seekers for years, however, and the commitments announced are unlikely to make a major difference absent action from the US Congress on an overhaul of immigration laws.

Peru’s Castillo Proposes Regional Subsidies to Fertilizers (1:25 p.m.)

In his speech at the plenary session, Peruvian President Pedro Castillo proposed establishing a regional credit program with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank to subsidize the purchase of fertilizers and basic foods. He also urged for coordination in the region to find additional solutions to fight the shortage of the key products applied to supply plant nutrients, which is hitting the Andean country hard.

“Peru has brought its serious concern about the fertilizer shortage to the OAS, encouraging the approval of a solution to monitor the situation,” Castillo said, referring to the Organization of American States.

Peru received 45,000 tons of fertilizers at the beginning of June after months of urea shortage, but it will only partially supply farmers for the next 45 days. The country is running against time to purchase the fertilizers it needs before seedtime in August.

Brazil Attentive to Economic Issues Affecting World, Bolsonaro Says (11:25 a.m.)

The summit is a much-awaited opportunity to deal with a post-pandemic world and its economic challenges, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said at a plenary session Friday.

Latin American’s largest economy is a key player in global food security and its agribusiness complies with strict environmental laws, Bolsonaro told leaders gathered in Los Angeles, adding that such a “sustainable agricultural power” doesn’t need to explore the Amazon territory to expand output.

Brazil will continue to import natural gas from Bolivia and is seeking to hold talks with Argentine President Alberto Fernandez on a gas agreement related to the Vaca Muerta field.

Bolsonaro also said his government is working relentlessly to find British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenist Bruno Araujo Pereira, who went missing in the Amazon rainforest on Sunday.

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