Donald Trump’s government outlined today the pillars of its policy toward Latin America, based on “national security and economic prosperity,” but with a more protectionist trade focus, In line with the priorities of the new US president.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and the Latin American incumbent in the State Department, Francisco Palmieri, defended Trump’s policy toward the region during the annual Conference of the Americas held in Washington.
“A foreign policy that is based on national security and economic prosperity is something that fits naturally with our interests on this continent and with the way the continent relates to us,” said Palmieri, who holds the position of Acting deputy secretary of the United States for Latin America.
“Strong and healthy economies in the region are good for both the United States and our continent, which is why this government is committed to increasing security and boosting economic growth” in Latin America, the official said.
Trump wants to see “a safe, democratic and free hemisphere, a region with law and order within its borders that closes the way to transnational criminal networks and routes of illicit activity,” in which “terrorism Can take root, “according to Palmieri.
The United States is interested in maintaining its trade with the region, which exports a “three times higher” volume to the one that sends “China, Japan and India together”, but that business must conform to the “four priorities” of Trump In trade, said the official.
Those priorities are “to promote US sovereignty, enforce US trade laws, capitalize on the US economic strength to expand exports of US goods and services, and protect intellectual property rights,” Palmieri said.
In order to advance those priorities, he recalled, the new Government is “reviewing its existing trade agreements”, in particular the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has been in force since 1994 between the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Ross, the head of Commerce, said today that he wants to seek a “more aggressive timetable” to renegotiate NAFTA, given the willingness of Mexican authorities to close those negotiations before the end of 2017.
“The US will not be a source of delay,” Ross said, promising that “soon” the letter will be sent to Congress 90 days in advance, a formal requirement for the start of the talks.
The United States does not seek “a trade war with anyone, least of all with our Latin American allies,” Ross stressed, and assured that “the imposition of tariffs” will only be used “when other tools have failed.”
Meanwhile, the Trump government is making a comprehensive review of US policy toward Cuba, and it is likely to produce “major” changes from the focus of former President Barack Obama, with a “greater emphasis” on human rights within the island , Predicted Palmieri.
Trump is also concerned about the situation in Venezuela, an issue that the president has addressed in several of his talks with his counterparts on the continent, according to Palmieri.
“The people of Venezuela are suffering from authoritarian repression and economic mismanagement of their government,” he said.
“The solution to the problems of Venezuela is not less democracy, but more democracy,” added Palmieri in reference to the process initiated by Caracas to abandon the Organization of American States (OAS) and convene a Constituent Assembly to modify the Venezuelan Constitution.
“The regime (of Nicolás Maduro) continues in a frontal clash with the region and with its own people,” said the official.
Venezuela also focused part of the speech given at the conference by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who opined that the change in that country can only occur “through the ballot box, and not in any other way.”
Also at the conference, Republican Senator John McCain opined that Trump should take a more proactive role in Venezuela.
“Why do not we raise our voices for those right now on the street, risking their lives and their welfare?” There is an opposition leader imprisoned, why does not President Trump mention his name? Reference to the Venezuelan opponent Leopoldo López.