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The Coming Summit of Americas May be Bumpy

The city of Los Angeles will hold the ninth Summit of Americas from June 6 to June 10. U.S. President Joe Biden will host all the political leaders in the West Hemisphere, 13 international organizations, entrepreneurs, and the representatives of civil organizations.


Since U.S. President Bill Clinton convened the first Summit of the Americas in Miami, Florida, in December 1994, it has become one of the most important platforms for the West Hemisphere countries to communicate with each other.


The theme of the coming summit will be “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future.” The pandemic, economic recovery, and climate changes are the important focuses.


Before the summit, the United States has been providing COVID vaccines and public health aid for Latin American countries in a variety of ways. For example, the United States has joined WTO-led COVAX, a global initiative to re-distribute vaccine and public health resources. According to the data from COVAX, about 30 percent of the total donated vaccines in 2021 have been flown to Latin America.


In addition, the United States held the 2nd Global COVID-19 Summit in May 2022 and invited most Latin American countries. A financial commitment totaling 3.2 billion USD for COVID preparation has been made. In the coming summit, leaders will talk about other important issues including transnational crimes, corruption, climate change, energy supply, etc.


Beyond these traditional topics that are related to “hard power,” the summit will also have three ancillary meetings for non-governmental participants. These meetings are The Ninth Civil Society Forum, The Sixth Young Americas Forum, and The Fourth CEO Summit of the Americas. These are unique opportunities for the summit participants to exert their public diplomacy impacts.


The Civil Society Forum is an international initiative led by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTD). In the previous Civil Society Forum in Quebec City, Canada, LGBTAIQ communities from South America shared their stories about fighting for civil rights in their own countries. This year’s forum is expected to follow the same theme and path.


The Sixth Young Americas Forum, on the other hand, is like a Civil Society Forum geared towards youngsters. Organized by the Organization of American States (OAS in English or OES in Spanish), the forum focuses on facilitating the dialogues between youngsters and political leaders. In the previous forum, American youngsters mainly discussed climate change.


Perhaps the most important one among the three ancillary meetings is The Fourth CEO Summit of the Americas. Many observers believe that the CEO Summit will focus on the economic recovery from the pandemic, and how to cope with the potential economic crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine War.


Nevertheless, the summit may not be the public diplomacy opportunity for the United States as it imagined.


Several Latin American leaders, for example, the President of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador, are threatening to skip the summit as a protest against excluding Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela from the list. On May 27, the President of Mexico confirmed that he would not participate in the summit in person but would send a delegate to it.


Guatemala said it would not attend after the U.S. criticized its handling of official corruption cases, although several Caribbean countries have backed off earlier threats to skip the event.


The Brookings Institute argues that the reasons for this potential boycott may have something to do with the Russia-Ukraine War. Several Latin American countries seem to be unhappy with the Biden administration’s flip-flopping attitudes toward Latin America. For example, the United States has quietly “upgraded” Venezuela from a “terrorist country” to a “moderately undemocratic country,” as it needs the crude oil from Venezuela to handle the energy crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine War.


Moreover, as two parallel tracks of globalization coalesce, one around the U.S. and another one around China, an anemic Summit of the Americas would be a geopolitical boost for Beijing.


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