- LATIN AMERICA
- MIDDLE EAST
- United Kingdom
- United States
- New Zealand
- South Africa
by Andres Oppenheimer
I've read with great attention President Barack Obama's recent article in
The article, headlined "Improving our Partnership" and published after Obama's return from a trip to Mexico and Costa Rica, says that "this is a moment of great promise for our hemisphere" and is full of feel-good talk about the future of the Americas.
But, sadly, it showed the absence of any U.S. plans to drastically expand trade ties with Latin America - like the Obama administration has done with Asia and Europe - or any sign that, in his second term, Obama will pay greater attention to this hemisphere.
Before we get into what Obama should do, let's take a quick look at the facts. In his article, Obama stated that about 40 percent of U.S. exports are currently going to Latin America, and that these exports are growing at a faster pace than U.S. shipments to the rest of the world.
Also, Obama celebrated that the
But here are some of the facts that Obama failed to mention in his article:
- U.S. total trade with Latin America has actually fallen as a percentage of total U.S. trade over the past decade. While 39 percent of overall U.S. trade was with the Western Hemisphere in 2000, that percentage fell to 38 percent in 2012, according to
- Despite Obama's
- Obama has launched the
Granted, he has helped ratify free trade deals with Colombia and Panama, which had been signed by his predecessor. And, sure, the
- In his
- Despite Obama's 2011 announcement of a plan to increase to 100,000 the number of Latin American students in U.S. colleges, and to 100,000 the number of U.S. students in Latin American universities - his most ambitious initiative for the region - progress on the project has been slow.
The plan calls for significant private sector funding, but Obama has invested little time, or political capital, in it. Fund-raising has been left in charge of the
Kerry did not travel with Obama to Mexico and Costa Rica last week, and his
My opinion: As regular readers of this column know well, I much prefer Obama over his Republican critics on most issues. But I find it unfortunate that, as Obama's recent trade initiatives with Asia and Europe show, he looks East and West, but very little toward the South. Neither he, nor Kerry, nor any Cabinet-level official is focused on the region.
Perhaps it's too late to expect any changes. But the least Obama could do is get personally involved in the projects he has already launched. For instance, he should pick up the phone and ask CEO's of top multinationals to chip in funds for his plan to raise student exchanges with Latin America to 100,000 in both directions. If Obama doesn't get personally involved, not even that will happen.
Article: Copyright ©, Tribune Media Services.
"What Obama Did Not Say about Latin America"