Spring in the Americas: Reinvigorating a Partnership
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As Thomas J. Donohue, President & CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, declared earlier this month while addressing the Colombian-American Chamber of Commerce in Cartagena, Colombia, “These days in Washington, we hear a great deal about the so-called ‘Pacific Pivot,’” but the reality is that “a country draws strength first and foremost from its allies, neighbors, and friends.”
Recognizing this truth, the Americas Department at the U.S. Chamber identified April, the beginning of spring, as the perfect time to go about renewing the ‘partnership’ between the United States and the rest of the hemisphere that President Obama first spoke of at the V Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
To begin this renovation of hemispheric relations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted the Partnership21 Conference, headlined by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. This conference signified the first time a Brazilian President had addressed the U.S. private sector in over a decade!
Beyond signing seven new bilateral agreements and launching a new presidential-level Dialogue on Defense Cooperation, this event created an opportunity to highlight not only the bilateral initiatives that are currently underway, but build a stage where the Brazil-U.S. relationship can stand on its own and begin to reach a new pinnacle. Only a week later, Secretary Clinton used this new stage to state, while visiting Brasilia, Brazil that “we need to redouble our efforts to conclude a double taxation treaty, we need to explore a bilateral investment treaty, [and] we need to consider in the future a free trade agreement.”
A few days after hosting this crucial and partnership-altering event, Donohue and a U.S. Chamber delegation left for the First CEO Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. There, Donohue and the U.S. Chamber delegation made it a priority to improve relationships with countries throughout the hemisphere. They worked to further relations through a series of bilateral meetings with the heads of state attending the CEO Summit, including Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, and Jamaican Prime Minister Simpson-Miller; by actively participating in the CEO Summit agenda—audio from Donohue’s panel is available here; and by highlighting the Chamber’s increasing role in the region—as captured by a full page article in Colombia’s widest distributed newspaper El Tiempo as well as here, here, and here.
Tom Donohue then headed to Panama— the “Crossroads of the Americas,” and a hub for trade, shipping, tourism, and the services industry—to meet with the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Panama as well as Panamanian Vice-Minister Jose Pacheco. Donohue was also able to tour the Panama Canal as well as the Panama Canal Expansion site with Luis Ferreira of the Panama Canal Authority, seeing one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken, one that will forever change global supply chains.
A few days later on April 23 the Americas team welcomed Barbadian Prime Minister Freundel Stuart. Speaking to the U.S. business community, Prime Minister Stuart discussed the opportunities and the challenges faced by Caribbean economies in an effort to forge a stronger alliance between the U.S. Chamber and our partners in the Caribbean than has existed in the past.
Finally, on April 24 the U.S. Chamber hosted Mexican President Felipe Calderon during the U.S.-Mexico Leadership Initiative Business Summit for the President’s final presentation to the U.S. business community in Washington D.C. before the upcoming election in Mexico later this year. In an effort to inform thought leaders on both sides of our border, the Chamber’s U.S.-Mexico Leadership Initiative released a new study at the Summit with policy recommendations for both countries to expand cooperation in sectors such as energy; financial services; transportation; agriculture; and trade.
Even a month like this, by itself, does not make a partnership, but spring is clearly here and the future looks bright!