Challenge for Biden to rally the Americas around a common vision

LOS ANGELES (AP) — President Joe Biden on Thursday attempted to present a unifying vision for the Western Hemisphere even as the Summit of the Americas was wracked with divisions and absences that make it difficult for North America to come together. and the South around common objectives on migration, the economy and the climate.

Disparities in wealth, governance and national interests mean it is difficult for Biden to duplicate the partnerships he has assembled in Asia and Europe. That has created limited expectations at a summit the United States is hosting for the first time since 1994.

With diplomatic efforts strained by boycotts at the top and legislative proposals stalled in a polarized Congress, Biden has focused on trying to get businesses and the private sector to support his efforts. But in addressing the summit, he focused on the possibilities of the two continents rather than their complicated realities.

“There’s no reason the Western Hemisphere shouldn’t be the most forward-looking, democratic, prosperous, peaceful and secure region in the world,” Biden said. “We have unlimited potential. ”

Before Biden took the stage earlier to address the CEOs, the backdrop was an animation that showed shards of color flying together to neatly form a map of North and South America. Yet, in fact, the process has hardly been so synchronized, especially with the notable boycott of the summit by the Mexican president and the uncertainty as to whether there are good incentives for Latin America to come closer together. the United States.

“It’s always been difficult to find consensus in Latin America,” said Ryan Berg, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank. “It’s an extremely diverse region, and it’s obviously difficult for her to speak with one voice.”

During a busy diplomatic day, the US President met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and has agreed to visit Canada in the coming months, a government official familiar with the plans told The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Biden was also due to speak with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and delivers a speech in front of all the participants. Vice President Kamala Harris met with Caribbean leaders to talk clean energy, and First Lady Jill Biden was hosting a brunch to bond with other spouses.

The day was to end with dinner at the Getty Villa, an art museum overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

There could be tension when Biden first meets Bolsonaro, an ally of former President Donald Trump. Bolsonaro is seeking a second term and has questioned the credibility of his country’s election, which has alarmed officials in Washington.

When Bolsonaro accepted an invitation to the summit, he asked Biden not to confront him about his election attacks, according to three of the Brazilian leader’s cabinet ministers who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, dismissed the idea that Biden agreed to any terms of the meeting with Bolsonaro.

“There are no off-limits topics in the president’s bilateral relationship, including with President Bolsonaro,” Sullivan told reporters. He added, “I anticipate the president will discuss open, free, fair and transparent democratic elections.”

The nature of democracy itself became a sticking point when planning the guest list for the event. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wanted the leaders of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua to be invited, but the United States resisted because it sees them as authoritarian.

In the end, no agreement could be reached and López Obrador decided not to attend. Neither did the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Honduras; Foreign Relations Secretary Eduardo Enrique Reina spoke about President Xiomara Castro’s decision to stay away.

“The president was very clear that this should be a summit with no exclusions,” Reina said. Still, he said the Honduran government was ready to work on common issues, saying, “The political will to work with all countries in the Americas is there.

It’s a reminder that relations with Latin America have proven tricky for the administration even as it cements ties in Europe, where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked closer cooperation, and in Asia. , where the growing influence of China has shaken some countries in the region.

One of the challenges is the undeniable power imbalance in the hemisphere.

World Bank data shows the US economy is more than 14 times the size of Brazil, the second-largest economy at the top. The sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies on Russia are much tougher on Brazil, which imports fertilizer from Russia. Trade data indicates that the region has deep ties with China, which has also made investments.

That leaves the United States in a position to show Latin America why a closer relationship with Washington would be more beneficial at a time when economies are still struggling to emerge from the pandemic and inflation has worsened conditions.

Sullivan promised that the United States will “invest specific funds to produce tangible results” in the region, with training for workers and money for food security, among others. He said US efforts will have “much more impact” on people’s lives than “the kinds of extractive projects China has invested in.”

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Boak reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Debora Alvares in Brasilia, Brazil, Rob Gillies in Toronto, Canada and Elliot Spagat in Los Angeles contributed to this report.