By Xinhua writer Pan Guojun
MEXICO CITY, April 10 (Xinhua) -- Leaders from 34 countries are expected to
attend the fifth Summit of the Americas on April 17, with the theme:
"Guaranteeing our future by promoting human's prosperity, energy safety and
sustainable development of the environment."
But media reports in Latin American countries believe that the three-day
summit in Trinidad and Tobago would be more meaningful to the future development
of U.S.-Latin America ties.
OBAMA KEEPS A LOW PROFILE
In contrast to his predecessor George W. Bush, U.S. President Barack Obama
has kept a low profile on the summit. He has yet to make any comment on whether
to restore talks, suspended since 2003,on the setting up of a Free Trade Area of
the Americas (FTAA).
Obama also said in mid February, he will neither issue a policy nor make a
comment, but will only attend the summit to listen to the opinions and proposals
of leaders of Latin American countries.
He hoped that there would be an atmosphere of "dignity, equality and mutual
respect" between him and his Latin American counterparts at the summit.
During a visit to Central and South America, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden
said on March 28 in Santiago, capital of Chile, that "the time of the United
States dictating unilaterally, the time where we only talk and don't listen is
over." He said the United States is expected to cooperate and conduct dialogue
with Latin America.
Biden's five-day visit was aimed at paving the way for President Obama to
attend the summit.
Talks toward the establishment of FTAA began at the first Summit of the
Americas in Miami, United States, in which 34 leaders approved a resolution to
The negotiations were suspended in 2003 when Brazil and Argentina demanded
that the agreement provide for the elimination of U.S. agriculture subsidies,
the effective access to foreign markets and further consideration toward the
needs and sensibilities of its members.
The last summit was held in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in November 2005.
Prior to the meeting, Bush said talks on FTAA should be re-established.
But it was opposed by members of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur)
Venezualan leader Hugo Chavez described FTAA as a "tool of imperialism." He
accused the United States of forcing other American countries to sign the
The summit ended without any progress, and the ties between the United
States and Latin America cooled.
SOFTENED ATTITUDE TO WASHINGTON
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the Bush
administration had been preoccupied with the war on terror and paid less
attention to the Latin American countries, which caused the estrangement of
relations. The relations between the U.S. and Venezuela and Bolivia deteriorated
to such an extent that the two countries and the United States expelled each
Chavez founded the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas to challenge
FTAA, while another organization, the South American Community of Nations, was
founded through the promotion of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Few Latin American countries today still show an interest in FTAA.
However, some Latin American leaders have adopted a conciliatory attitude
toward the upcoming summit. "We are a democratic and peaceful continent and the
United States should look at production and development, not only
drug-trafficking and organized crime," Lula said during a visit in Washington in
On February 4, Chavez said: "We are willing to achieve rapprochement at any
time. We intend to return to the level of relations we had with former President
Bill Clinton, which, although they were not easy, were easy-going."
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro also showed willingness to restore
normal relations with the United States when he received a U.S. congressional
delegation that visited Cuba earlier this month.
According to Latin American media reports, Obama will change the Bush
administration's policy toward the region as he expressed willingness to improve
relations during his presidential campaign. Obama has also adopted some measures
to ease relations with Cuba since he took office.
OPPORTUNITIES AND DIFFICULTIES
The theme of this upcoming summit is not closely related with the current
economic and political situations in Latin American countries against the
background of the financial crisis. Discussions are expected to center on the
cause of the global financial and economic crisis and measures to restore
The Obama administration is dealing with the crisis with the introduction
of economic stimulus measures, increasing government investment and boosting
However, most Latin American countries, including Brazil and Argentina,
think that the United States should reform its economic policies and financial
system, and tighten supervision of its financial market.
The Latin American countries want the United States to increase imports
from them to check emerging protectionism. Many economies of Latin American
countries depend heavily on the United States.
Trade with the United States comprises about 50 percent of the region's
global trade volume. Many Latin American leaders hope to find an effective way
to jointly tackle the financial and economic crisis with President Obama.
The Cuban issue could also be a possible focal point during the summit.
Many Latin American countries have been demanding that the United States end its
trade embargo against Cuba since its legitimate member status in the
Organization of American States was stalled by the United States in 1962. The
Venezuelan government recently said the upcoming summit could not avoid the
Cuban issue, and its final communiqu¨¦ should have a clear and reasonable
reference to it.
Analysts said since the Democratic Party has usually paid more attention to
relations with Latin America compared with the Republican Party, the United
States may improve its relations with the region, including Venezuela and
Bolivia through dialogue during the summit.