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When we face common challenges in an interconnected world, we expect responsible governments to come together to pursue collective action. The private sector is a necessary part of the global coalition of problem-solvers, but has not always been at the table. In the Americas we are experiencing the progressive transformation of the private sector’s role in public policy dialogue: from the margin to the main, from supplemental to essential. On the eve of the U.S.-Central America-Caribbean Energy Summit, we see the trajectory of this transformation accelerating.
I went to the annual meeting of the board of governors of the Inter-American Development Bank in Nassau, Bahamas last month. I joined fellow members of the Americas Business Dialogue (ABD) for our first collective meeting since our CEOs met with leaders at the 2015 CEO Summit of the Americas in Panama. We took stock of how our policy proposals have been received by governments in the past year and started to look towards the next Summit in 2018, in Peru. We also discussed opportunities to work with governments to make progress on a shared agenda, which in some cases is already underway.
Only one week prior, the ABD met with trade and customs authorities from the Hemisphere in Buenos Aires. Participants had frank exchanges on the challenges to and benefits of implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. This was not an add-on side meeting; it was the explicit purpose of the discussion in which the public and private sectors dug into what works and what we can do together. We had the same expectation going into Nassau. With the support of the IDB and the Inter-American Investment Corporation, it did not disappoint.
ABD spent day two in Nassau sharing the dais in a live public broadcast and sitting down in small private roundtables with IDB leadership and government ministers. Executives representing the ABD working groups on finance, energy, and trade facilitation answered questions and exchanged ideas with government officials. Sitting on one of the panels, I pointed out that our collective action affects businesses of all sizes as well as the health of our economies, and people’s everyday lives. I wanted to emphasize the breadth and impact of the governments’ cooperative approach to working with the private sector.
That message has been received. Governments invited the ABD to meet directly with leaders as part of the U.S.-Central America-Caribbean Energy Summit taking place in Washington this week. Central American and Caribbean countries face significant energy deficits. Access to affordable and reliable energy in those countries is critical for businesses to grow and for the wellbeing of the workforce and their families. The private sector has a role in informing energy policies, as well as in their implementation.
The recent openings for ABD to engage governments at all levels reveal a promising trend in the region’s perspective towards public-private dialogue. The title of ABD’s compilation of policy recommendations is “From Dialogue to Action.” Indeed, the next step for governments and the private sector is to take action as partners in implementing the agenda that builds a more prosperous, inclusive and globally competitive region.