WAS OBAMA’S LATIN AMERICAN TRIP SUCCESSFUL?
By: Paul Goree 3/24/2011
Keeping his State of The Union promise, President Obama’s recent trip to Latin America was an incisive move to reconcile past relationships, recognize developing nations, deliberate over current trade agreements and provide some much needed public relations for the United States and himself. Was this trip a success, and with the prevailing circumstances as they are, does this trip warrant any justification? Obama and his administration view Latin America as a world of emerging power, secure allies and developing economies, compared to the prior decades of which Latin America nations were plagued with civil war, drug cartels, and civil unrest. This is especially true of Brazil, whose favorable ties with the US diminished towards the end of Brazilian President Luzi Inacio Lula Da Silva. Lula Da Silva recognition of Palestine state based on 1967 boarders, during the ending months of his office; provoked harsh reaction with the US, who still believe only direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine can create peace. Obama and his administration are against the Palestine Nations world wide campaign for recognition, terming it Palestine B Plan- an alternative to dealing with Israel.
Relationship between the US and Brazil, under Lula Da Silva had deteriorated to the point, that Lula Da Silva commented that the US is behaving like an “Empire” and nothing had changed under the Obama administration, worth warranting. This of course cause the US to frown upon Lula Da Silva, but other factors such as Brazil’s attempt with Turkey to break a deal resolving the Iranian Nuclear Crisis, really place walls up between the US and Brazil. Despite the past issues Obama and new Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, were able to mend strained relations, as Obama toured poverty stricken shanty towns, played soccer and praised Brazil for its shift from dictatorship to democracy.
The primary purpose of this trip was to secure solid business opportunities for the United States, which some feel the President was to late in his arrival, considering China’s prevalent presence in Central and South America. In the face of China, Obama had to bureaucratically maneuver as he attempts to re-build old bridges and build new ones in the expanding Latin American market. For example it was only one year ago (12-8-2010) that Chile celebrated the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations with China. In 1970 China began what could come to be a very successful trade agreement with Chile, making Chile the first country in South America to acquire diplomatic agreements with China, resulting in bilateral Free Trade. Since that time, Chile-China have both benefited and enjoyed a prosperous exchange of culture, education, and economic boom. Chileans trade with China has increased drastically last year resulting in $17.7 billion US dollars. These increases have prompted Chinese President Hu Jintao and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera expanded business relations as the two met in Beijing on November 16, 2010 to sign 3 new economical agreements, with trade in agriculture, science, mineral development, light industry and household appliances. The cooperation has enable Chile to invest $120 billion dollars in its economy and to diminish poverty through out its nation.
Successes like this are what Obama and his administration are striving to obtain. But will these hopes materialize, is a question of unknown possibilities, considering some of these nations, bargaining request and American politics.
The bargaining request of some of these nations might seem possible to Obama, but with Congress bi-polar nature, filibustering is sure to paralyze the floor, unless Obama can triumph with his partisan’s notion. Some of this request includes Brazil, who desires a statement from President Obama, supporting Brazil for its bid to win a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, as Obama provided for India. Brazil would also like the US to end ethanol tariffs. It uses to be (pre 2010) that Brazil slapped the US with a 20% tariff on imported ethanol to increase its exported corn ethanol. But with global success of its sugar ethanol, Brazil felt confident to compete on the global exchange market and dropped import tariff. Thus now desire the US to drop exceedingly high import tariffs.
Chile on the other hand, would like the US to wavier Visa requirements for Chilean entrance into the US. This would give them immigration status equal to that of European nations. Chile would also like the US inspection and F.D.A. to streamline agricultural exports (removing prior restrictions if necessary) to an open US market. Considering the strain immigration trails going on within the US concerning immigration, I don’t think this is possible at this time.
El Salvador would like active US immigration reform and economical development to assist the ruined nation as it is recovering from a 12 year civil war that ended in 1992. El Salvador would like Obama to re-examine and ratify the US-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) that was put into effect 2006. El Salvador President Mauricio Fune stated that, “he is gratified that Obama included his small country in the tour of Latin America.” And hopes cooperative diplomatic agreements can be obtained in the near future. Funes was elected in 2009, after a civil war in the country over threw the US supported government in 1980. Since that time, El Salvador has been slowly developing and has raised the eye brows of Washington D.C. as Funes restored diplomatic relations with Cuba and as Mexican drug cartels found refuge in El Salvador. For their part, El Salvador believe the US is partial the cause of the escalated drug trafficking and fueled violence. They point to the fact that as the US’s War on Drugs succeeded with control of Colombian and Mexican drug traffickers; it caused the cartels to descend into El Salvador and Guatemala to re-assume business. The El Salvadorian government points out more successful negotiations from former Presidents Reagan and Bush, that support the El Salvador Armed Forces with the best that America had, and committed military advisers/security assistance to assist with El Salvador as it attempted to control the growing narcotic problem in their county. Reagan and Bush’s effort cost the United States $ 6 billion dollars, and were conceived as marginally successful.
When it comes to the bargaining request of Colombia, much is to be said of the poor inefficient bureaucracy of the United State Congress, as they attempt to maneuver around and on behave of advocates. Colombia would like President Obama to ratify the Trade Agreement which has been on the table since 2006. These agreements with both nations have been idle because of intense coalition of anti-free trade groups (US labor unions and human right advocators) who both raise Colombian human rights and fair labor right questions, each time the agreement hits the house floor. Although Colombia has made significant improvements, these groups argue that the nation still is abased from workers union violence, which is what the US advocates point out as reason to deny approval of any trade agreements. Unlike other arguments against free trade, where competition and foreign imports are the problem-Colombia already has 90% export duty free in the US, because of policies adopted in 1991, that aided to legally motivate alternative productions within the nation, compared to narcotic production. This benefiting policy to Colombia is a beast of burden to American farmers who have lost 50% of the market share, resulting in $800 million dollars.
With all of these bargaining request was it really possible for Obama to get anything accomplished in Latin America? Well the President believes that with some trade re-alignments US exports to Latin America could support 2 million US jobs in the future. The trip also show cased Central and Latin America as global markets (as if they needed the publicity). The trip has demonstrated to the world, the political achievements accomplished by Central and Latin America as they have transition themselves from dictatorships to democracies (I think this is most prevalent). Obama stated that “those who argue that democracy stands in the way of economic progress, must content with the example of Brazil.” I tend to agree with the President, but would include all the emerging Latin America nations. On a more personal level, this trip provided an excellent platform for public relations for Obama as a true leader as he effortlessly juggled, the trip, family, and Libya (job well done, Mr. President). However, many question if this trip really built any new bridges with regards to economic development, as compared to the swooshing agenda of China? We will have to wait and see how the Congress attends to the President’s plans for diplomatic agreements with Latin America? I personally believe this is our window of opportunity, if we miss this and ignore Latin America as we have done in the past, China will pick up were we neglected.
Aleman, Marcos. (3-19-2011)
El Salvador: Obama visit dispels fear over ties. Associated Press, http://www.mercurynes.com
Feller, Ben. (3-23-2011) Obama tours Rio: Lifts Brazil as a model for peace. USA Today
Kagan, Joshua (4-8-2010) Brazil Elimanates 20% Import Tariff on Ethanol.
Keating, Joshua (12-3-2010). Brazil Recognize Palenstine State. Foreign Policy.www.foreignpolicy.com
Sabatini, Christopher (12-21-2011). Economics of Colombia and Panama-US Free Trade. http://www.huffingtonpost.com
Shapior, Ari (3-23-2011). What did Obama Latin American Trip Accomplish?www.npr.com
Whitefield, Mini. (5-16-2011) Obama’s visit fuels in Latin American. the Spokesman-Review http://www.spokesman review.com