With the region’s increasing prominence on the world stage, Latin America and the Caribbean are at a critical juncture towards a more prosperous future. Yet there is still work to be done – not only in promoting sustained economic progress but also in building stronger trade and investment ties with the United States, its top trading partner. To discuss this crucial moment in regional relations the Arsht Center, in partnership with Caribbean-Central American Action, was honored to host for a breakfast roundtable discussion the Honorable Larry L. Palmer, US Ambassador to Barbados; the Honorable James Brewster, US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic; the Honorable Adam E. Namm, US Ambassador to Ecuador; the Honorable Jonathan D. Farrar, US Ambassador to Panama; and the Honorable Jay N. Anania, US Ambassador to Suriname.
Arsht Center Ambassador-in-Residence Capricia Penavic Marshall welcomed guests to the roundtable, highlighting the importance of economic integration in Latin America’s rise and the United States’ critical role in this new era. Arsht Center Deputy Director Jason Marczak and Caribbean-Central American Action Executive Director Sally Yearwood co-moderated a fascinating discussion among the ambassadors and guests around the table.
Marczak framed the discussion by noting Latin America and the Caribbean’s position as a strategic partner to both the United States and Europe. Advancement in the region should spell an expansion of economic opportunities at every level. In their individual opening remarks, the ambassadors highlighted such opportunities for growth at their respective posts along with the challenges that each country faced. Ambassador Farrar touched upon the promise of the Pacific Alliance but observed that low barriers to trade do not mean automatic trade integration: Panama, for example, must resolve impediments to prosperity concerning its education system and the economic inclusion of indigenous populations. Ambassador Anania asserted that Suriname has an entirely self-sufficient extractive energy industry, but its success may also be an inhibitor to diverse economic development.
As Marczak and Yearwood posed questions to the panelists, the ambassadors addressed the topics of trade integration and foreign direct investment in Latin America and the Caribbean from the standpoint of the United States. Ambassador Palmer repeated the old adage that when America sneezes, Latin America and the Caribbean catch cold: a weakened US economy can severely impact the region. Both Ambassador Brewster and Ambassador Namm expressed a hope that foreign investment diversifies in the future, with investors from beyond the United States.
One topic that resonated with the ambassadors and the audience was entrepreneurship in the region. All ambassadors agreed that Latin America and the Caribbean need an infusion of entrepreneurs supported not only with foreign aid but recruited and nurtured with domestic government initiatives.
The ambassadors fielded several thought-provoking questions from guests, which ranged from inquiries about Venezuela to pervasive corruption to climate change. We were especially honored to host two members of the foreign diplomatic community in Washington, DC: His Excellency Mario Jaramillo, Ambassador of Panama, and His Excellency Subhas Mungra, Ambassador of Suriname, both of whom lent considerable insight to the discussion.
The ambassadors were visiting Washington from their posts in far warmer capitals for the US Department of State’s annual Global Chiefs of Mission Conference.