Friday, September 04, 2020

Repairing U.S.-Latin American Relations

Michael Shifter asks whether the damage Trump has wrought on U.S.-Latin American relations can be repaired, starting from an anecdote about how a Mexican business leader said relations would be set back 20 years.

I think there are two things here that go well beyond even what a Biden administration would look like. First, history tells us that of course relations can be repaired. The relationship is just too tight, the interdependence so strong. If we can repair relations with Cuba after years of trying to destroy it, we can do so with Mexico. Even Daniel Ortega tried for a while to engage with the U.S. So this part is easy, and in fact many Latin American presidents are just waiting for someone else in the White House, in a similar way as the 2008 election.

But the second is more difficult. China is now a player like never before, a process that became stronger in the 2000 and then accelerated, pedal to the metal, under Trump. That cannot be reversed no matter what the U.S. does. Shifts in trade relations are not super likely unless something happens in China. These are long-terms trends that will not change just because someone new become U.S. president. Latin American countries looked for creative ways to find autonomy from the U.S., and restoration of trust may slow that but will not stop it.


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