(November 3, 2023)
8:07 A.M. EDT
MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone, for joining today’s call to preview today’s Americas Partnership Leaders’ Summit here at the White House. Thanks for your patience as we worked out some of the scheduling issues.
As a reminder, today’s call is on background, attributable to “senior administration officials,” and it’s embargoed until the conclusion of the call.
For your awareness and not for your reporting, today on the call we have a great group of folks. We’ve got [senior administration official], [senior administration official], and [senior administration official].
With that, I’ll turn it over to our speakers for brief remarks on the top, and then we’ll take your questions.
[Senior administration official], over to you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great. Thanks, [moderator]. And good morning, everybody. And apologies for all the last-minute scheduling changes yesterday, but we had two bilats that were very productive.
I want to start by making just a point about the President’s engagement in the Western Hemisphere. In what has been a very busy year for the administration overall — not just in terms of domestic policy, but also foreign policy, a number of, I think, challenging global issues — the President has still engaged in, so far, 11 bilateral meetings this year with — with leaders, not — not including in that the many calls that he’s had.
There’s been a visit to Mexico for the North American Leaders’ Summit. The President also traveled to — to Canada for meetings with — with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
At the U.N. General Assembly, the President, with President Lula, launched the Partnership for Workers’ Rights, a global initiative.
And obviously, today, he is following through on a commitment that he made at the Summit of the Americas to, you know, launch the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity. And this will be the first inaugural meeting.
This is also something that follows on, I think, the efforts by the — by the administration to work to institutionalize what has been a very successful and ambitious and innovative initiative under the Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection that has really taken a holistic approach to our efforts to address historic migration flows.
And the Americas Partnership complements the work of the L.A. Declaration because, fundamentally, the way the President looks at migration, as I mentioned, is holistically. It means not just working with Congress to pass legislation, investing in a functioning border, but also, very importantly, is really investing in the prosperity and the security of our neighbors so that would-be migrants have a — have a right to remain.
On the economic side, I think it’s important to, I think, underscore here that there have been a number of factors that have impacted the ability or, I think, the less benefits that Latin America has received from nearshoring efforts. It has been — I think they include political and regulatory risk factors, I think, a lack of human capital, poor infrastructure. I think, fundamentally, we want to actually use the Americas Partnership to really promote a shared economic agenda to address some of these challenges.
So, the Leaders’ Summit, from our perspective, advances President Biden’s commitment to a strong regional partnership in the Western Hemisphere, as he announced in last year’s summit. During the Leaders’ Summit today, the President and the 11 regional partners are going to establish this as the only economic platform or architecture in the hemisphere that is work — that is focused on building tomorrow’s economy in our hemisphere.
As the President has said, there is no reason the Americas should not be the most prosperous, democratic, and secure region in the world. And truth is, we have unlimited potential. The Americans can feed and power most of the world with our fertile lands, the abundant natural resources.
Yet, as I mentioned, we’re also facing a series of shared challenges — not just climate change, income inequality — as I mentioned, people leaving their homes in the millions in a way that is impacting all the countries of the Americas Partnership. And together, we can confront these challenges together.
In that spirit, the meetings today provided a platform to work with partners to tackle some of these challenges head on. Our focuses really are going to be to channel investments to modernize and transform our infrastructure, develop the next generation of entrepreneurs, create good jobs, and skill up our workers for the digital future, and preserve to the environment.
Now, very briefly, I’ll just switch to the summit itself. You saw the events yesterday at the Inter-American Development Bank’s Responsible Investment Forum. The — the leaders are also going to be meeting with Secretary Yellen today. And then the President is going to host the leaders for a plenary meeting later this morning where they’re going to discuss the priorities for delivering that greater economic benefit, stability, and prosperity to the region, as well as deepening regional economic competitiveness and more inclusive economies through our collaborative efforts.
The President committed to delivering on this partnership, and we have prepared a suite of initial deliverables that will demonstrate that down payment on this important regional initiative. They are designed to be catalytic. So, we expect our partner countries, financial institutions, and private investors to crowd in additional resources and build that regional network effect.
And, you know, for example, the partners have agreed to establish a regional program to provide investments and training to cohorts of entrepreneurs, especially those from marginalized communities across the Americas. With the IDB working to create a new investment platform that mobilizes private capital to modernize digital and physical infrastructure across the Americas Partnership countries.
Also, with the IDB, we’re going to provide technical assistance to develop innovative nature-based finance solutions to put more private capital into preserving the Americas’ remarkable biodiversity. I’m talking about green bonds as a clear example of a mechanism that has been championed in the past.
This is really just a preview of a number of things that the President will announce this morning. So, I’m not going to get into any details, but happy to have the discussion in questions. And I’ll turn it over to my colleagues.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, [senior administration official]. So, as [senior administration official] said, we are establishing the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity as a leader-led regional forum made up of these 12 initial countries.
“Leader-led” really is an emphasis here, of course, because of the summit today, but there’s also going to be three ministerial tracks that are set up in the trade, foreign affairs, and finance areas. And the purpose of setting up these tracks is to make sure that we’re working toward focused and prioritized workstreams that are going to deliver tangible results.
We’ve set up this structure in the partnership after having extensive conversations with our partners about how we can actually identify our priorities and make progress on those. The feedback from our stakeholders and from our partners has helped us arrive at this institution, which we think can quickly take root and deliver quickly on our shared goals.
The Americas Partnership also provides us a platform for our hemisphere to come together on supply chain competitiveness. That’s going to be one of the most important policy areas that the partnership works on. And supply chain competitiveness will be cross-cutting on those three tracks.
We’re focused initially on developing competitiveness within the hemisphere among the partners in clean energy, semiconductors, and medical supplies.
And one of the reasons why we think the partnership is right to focus on regional supply chain competitiveness is just when you look at all the dynamics in the region, we’ve got a lot of things that give us a leg up. We’ve got natural resources, like [senior administration official] said. We’ve got dynamic people. We’ve got technology, capital. We’ve got unparalleled cultural and familial bonds.
These — this connectivity in our economies is going to be what we leverage in the partnership to build these crucial industries of our future.
We will, in addition to having leaders summits every two years, each year our ministers are going to meet to advance the work of the tracks to identify the next set of near-term priorities and to just continually reassess and make sure that the partnership is really achieving that deeper economic integration in a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable way.
One other feature of the partnership that I think is unique and really crucial to its success is that we plan on having spaces that are just foundational for the partnership where stakeholders, including civil society, experts, academics, workers, and others — businesses, of course — can provide their ideas and feedback on our priorities and how we’re advancing them and how we can deliver those tangible results that I mentioned.
And it’s also an opportunity for us to communicate back to them what the partnership is doing, how it is succeeding, how it is benefiting them.
And then, last but not least, on the structure, the ministers will be tasked by the leaders to prioritize the establishment of a mechanism and the criteria for further expansion of the partnership to additional countries.
As the President announced last June, this is always intended to be an open and inclusive forum. And we want to deliver on that promise.
We want to make sure that when we expand the partnership, we’re maintaining the high ambition and high standard and the shared vision that we’re — the leaders will be laying out today. But we want to make sure that that openness and that inclusivity is something that the ministers undertake right away.
And with that, I’ll turn it over to [senior administration official].
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great. Thanks, [senior administration official]. And good morning, everyone.
To build on what [senior administration official] mentioned at the top on the link between APEP and the President’s approach to migration, we think it’s important to acknowledge that the APEP countries are collectively hosting the majority of refugees and migrants in the Western Hemisphere.
These are the top host countries and each has been significantly impacted by the historic flows in recent years.
How our partners have responded is impressive and something that President Biden deeply appreciates.
Our partners did not shut their doors. Instead, they have taken steps to welcome their neighbors, give them legal status, and give them jobs.
In fact, in fulfillment of their commitments in Los Angeles last summer, six APEP countries have actually announced and implemented new regularization or temporary protected status policies in the last year to offer legal status to millions of people who have been displaced in the Western Hemisphere — countries like Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Panama.
They have stepped up in big ways, and we are stepping up for them. APEP is a big part of that.
The new economic tools that President Biden will announce today — alongside the IDB, private sector, and other donors — seek to reinforce this welcoming spirit. They seek to reward and further support the countries in our hemisphere that have not only been impacted by migration but are actively welcoming and integrating them. And hopefully, this will incentivize other countries to do the same.
The bottom line is that President Biden believes that targeted economic investment in top refugee and migrant host countries is critical to stabilizing migration flows.
This is at the heart of both APEP and the other regional framework that President Biden advanced in Los Angeles with 21 leaders, the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection.
Thanks so much. And we’ll open it up for questions.
MODERATOR: Thanks so much. If our moderator could instruct folks on how to get on the queue, we’ll take a few questions.
Q Hi, this is (inaudible). Can you hear me?
OPERATOR: Yes, ma’am.
Q Okay, I wanted to ask, to [senior administration official], if you could give a little bit more detail about the green bonds and how these mechanisms will play a role in the alliance and any details you could provide about the deliverables today. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, of course. Look, I’ll be very brief because, again, I think it’s to the President to be making these announcements.
But you also, I’m sure, are familiar with countries like Colombia that have pioneered the concept of green bonds. If you have not seen in the news: In May, DFC structured the largest debt-for-climate swap that’s ever been done in Ecuador as a part of the protection of the Galapagos region.
And — but it is very expensive and time intensive to develop these mechanisms in a way that really will attract investment. And so, I think there are tools that we can provide to help really facilitate the ability of countries to do that.
What I’ll say on the deliverables is that the President — whenever he thinks about Latin America and the Caribbean, he — you may have heard him say this, because he says it often — he doesn’t think about what we should be doing for the Americas, but rather with the Americas. And the tools and the deliverable really reflect that in that they are tools that the leaders are going to use together.
So, I’d mentioned there’s one that is going to support entrepreneurs. Often, businesses will fall apart at the beginning or it’s — you know, it’s very difficult to start up a business. And so, finding mechanisms to really support that throughout the countries of the Americas partnership.
Also, the importance of, as I mentioned, not just of our efforts under the Partnership for Global Infrastructure, but really bringing a lot of those efforts to the Americas by finding ways to work with the Inter-American Development Bank to mobilize — to crowd in private capital and mobilize up potentially billions of dollars to renewable infrastructure.
These are tools. But you should expect today, as well, to see that other Americas Partnership countries are going to actually put initiatives on the table as well on — you know, for example, regional platforms for addressing gaps in human capital, particularly in semiconductor workforces, which often is something that I think disincentivizes investments. There are others.
And I think what that will exemplify is that the Americas Partnership is stronger together when the countries are working together on common economic agendas, we’re developing tools together to really advance those goals.
It really has the potential to significantly, I think, shift the economic dynamics in a region that has been moving slower than its peers on the adoption of technology, on taking advantage of the nearshoring trends and other economic upgrades that fundamentally will address a number of national interests, not just on migration but, fundamentally, across the region that is economically stable and secure and democratic is in the national security interests of the United States.
Q Thank you.
Q Hi, this is (inaudible).
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: (Inaudible.)
Q Sorry. Thanks for the call. I’m curious — yesterday, the Chilean President mentioned that he had raised, in addition to all of these initiatives, the Israel-Hamas war. And I’m curious if you could speak to what the President is also trying to convey to the Western leaders as they, too, monitor the situation abroad and how it plays into the initiatives here.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. Well, look, I’m not going to get into the details of the discussion between the two leaders. We did send a press readout after the meeting. And so, I think I would maybe just point to those.
Q Good morning. My name is Pedro Rojas with Univision, and I got a couple of questions. Number one, how many head of states are attending this summit this morning? And the second one: if there is any enforcement — border enforcement talks among the participants of the summit? Meaning, anything to control the migration flows and the Darien Gap and other places (inaudible) where we know that there are thousands of migrants is still coming to the southern border of the U.S.?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks. So, 9 of the 11 leaders will be in attendance. President López Obrador is — or Mexico is going to be represented by the Mexican Foreign Minister — as is Panama, by the Foreign Minister. I think given that today is Panamanian National Day and, obviously, President Cortizo is, I think, incredibly busy in Panama. The President looks forward to meeting him in the near future.
I’ll let my colleagues speak to migration. But the focus, I think, today is, as I mentioned, our holistic approach to migration, where it is an all-of-the-above strategy, including investing in the economic prosperity and security of the Americas.
I would note that of the — you know, approximately 7 million Venezuelans — for example, on migration — have left Venezuela as a result of the economic crisis and the closure of the economic space. A majority of those migrants have settled in the countries of the Americas Partnership.
And so, from the very beginning, under the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, we really worked to really stabilize those populations. But today, where these — where the L.A. Declaration and the Americas Partnership really meet and dovetail is that this also is about making sure that economies like Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, and others are prospering economically to be able to absorb these populations.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that was well said. Nothing more from me. Thanks.
MODERATOR: I think that’s all the time we have for today. As a reminder, the contents of this call were on background, attributable to senior administration officials. And as we’ve reached the conclusion of the call, the embargo is now lifted.
Thanks, everyone, for joining.
8:27 P.M. EDT