Andres Oppenheimer argues that the way to reduce China's share of trade in Latin America is for the United States to create "an ambitious plan" for Latin American universities. You are correct: that makes very little sense. But it emphasizes a problem for those who argue the Obama administration needs a new grand policy vision.
“There is a perceived lack of strategic vision on the part of the United States vis-à-vis the region,” ECLAC’s recent report says. “The Alliance for Progress, the Initiative for the Americas and the Free Trade Area of the Americas were all ambitious U.S. initiatives for regional cooperation. Today, no equivalent to those initiatives exists.”
The FTAA? It was a failure and is generally seen as an example of the tone deaf nature of the Bush administration as it tried to force the negotiations. That is not a model to be followed.
China is gobbling up Latin American economies, and would be doing so even if Obama had announced a grandiose vision. Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Arab Spring (all distractions) would still be happening too. Fear of being supplanted by China should not lead us toward vague grandiosity.