Recent developments in South America have upended the United States’ historical — and often misguided — tendency to lump the region into a one-size-fits-all policy. A politically and economically muscular Brazil, the rise of an anti-American bloc of countries led by Venezuela, and the emergence of economic and even political extraregional rivals in the hemisphere have created a more diverse, independent and contentious region for the United States.
But the reports of the United States’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. Economically and politically, the U.S. remains the leader in what is admittedly a much-changed, more assertive region. What is now necessary, however, is a long-overdue rethink of U.S. policy toward South America.
Meanwhile, South American countries have not stood around waiting for the United States to fill the resulting void. Economically within the region, the U.S. has been losing market share. In 2011, China replaced the U.S. as the major trading partner for Brazil and Chile. At the same time, China has signed free trade agreements or trade deals with Chile, Peru, Cuba and Costa Rica, while providing a series of concessionary loans to Venezuela and Ecuador. Even Washington’s greatest South American ally, Colombia, has refused to wait, signing a free trade agreement with Canada and launching negotiations for a free trade agreement with China. [World Politics Review]
A mariner fantasy for most of his life is the integration of the two Americas, North and South, and throw in Australia and New Zealand. What a trade powerhouse that would be. One continent is in the northern hemisphere, the other in the southern hemisphere – a boon to 12-month agricultural GDP. South America has oil, too, but it leads in amounts of rare minerals like Lithium. In South America, weather similar to the Gulf Coast is as large as the continental United States. In reference to the last post about the Pacific Rim, ten nations from Mexico to Argentina have coasts on the Pacific Ocean – and China knows it.
Two things interfere with collaboration: social history and racism. The United States has been too interested in the northern hemisphere and its cultural links with old world nations. Europe launched the existence of the United States in 1607. That liaison has run its course as new economic and technical forces are reshaping global economics and international policy.
Mariner doubts the US social image of anything south of Florida has changed since Hemingway lived in Cuba and politically since Castro was the dictator. Even Puerto Rico and Hispaniola get short shrift. Otherwise, as Donald would suggest, they are non-white immigrants. The literary relationship is little more than Carmen Miranda and “Don’t cry for me Argentina.” However, several professional tennis players have been quite successful in the US.
But. The coronavirus has reset the totalizator. Overnight new odds and probabilities have become real and immediate which otherwise would have taken a decade to emerge. Momentarily up in the air is how to deal with world recession; that certainly will have an effect on international relations. The disruption has had social ramifications as well because citizen pressure on governments has forced awareness of how incompetent governments have been at managing the wellbeing of the citizenry. The virus has forced to center stage the indigent, helpless and marginally threatened part of the population and indirectly has highlighted growing plutocracy and corporate greed.
Further, the virus has stopped dead the functioning of the job market. This will allow faster adaptation to artificial intelligence and change the way citizens work almost immediately instead of gradually.
It seems a perfect time to revisit and restructure the US relationship with everything in the western hemisphere below 20°N.
. . . and before global warming really grabs our attention!