The President Heads to Latin America

March 18, 2011 By Jane Kaminski

In advance of President Obama’s trip to Latin America this evening, Secretary Clinton reminded an audience at CSIS that development and diplomacy make the Western Hemisphere a much safer and more prosperous place.  Secretary Clinton highlighted the important history of trade between the U.S. and its neighbors to the south and the need to maintain a close relationship with Latin America as invaluable to our economy and national security.

During her speech, Secretary Clinton noted that, despite the focus on developing markets in East and South Asian countries like China or India, we export three times as much to Latin America as we do to China.  This sort of economic relationship is in part due to proximity, but also in large part to the booming Latin American economies.  Latin America managed to grow 6% last year, while drawing up millions into middle class and open up markets to US goods.

Strong trade relationships with our Latin American neighbors make them natural partners for collaboration on other foreign policy priorities. For example, Brazil is partnering with the U.S. on development projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and Uruguay, and currently contributes the most peacekeeping soldiers in the world (per capita). In addition, Latin American nations that have met development challenges and  struggled through the hard work of democratization over the past decades can be valuable models for other emerging states, especially given current events in the Middle East and North Africa.

With all these issues at stake, President Obama departs tonight for Latin America to visit Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador.