Latin America market Federico Parra/Getty Images

A Belt and Road for the Americas?

In a time of global uncertainty, a vision of “made in the Americas” prosperity provides a unifying agenda for the continent. If implemented, the US could reassert its historical leadership among a group of countries that share its fundamental values, as well as an interest in inclusive economic growth and rising living standards.

WASHINGTON, DC – As Canada, Mexico, and the United States focus on the next round of negotiations on modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement – a highly uncertain endeavor – governments in the rest of the Americas are grappling with a more fundamental question about trade. Who will be their dominant trade partner in the future: the US, Europe, or China?

For more than a century, the resounding answer to that question has been, “the US.” The country’s proximity, soft power, and sheer economic might made it the natural center of commercial attention for Latin America. And Latin America is the first or second most important trading partner for 37 of the 50 US states.

In 2016, US companies exported a total of $515 billion worth of goods and services to Latin America and the Caribbean – nearly three times as much as they exported to China. Moreover, whereas the US has a large and recurring trade deficit with China, the country typically posts a surplus with its southern neighbors, which traditionally favor the high-value goods and sophisticated services that US companies provide.

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