President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
June 07, 2022
This op-ed was originally published in La Nación on June 8, 2022 here.
Government, civil society, youth and business leaders are meeting for the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles this week. While conventional wisdom holds that not much comes out of these summits, I believe this gathering – and the public private collaboration that is set to occur – offers a rare opportunity to make progress on the mounting challenges facing countries across the Western hemisphere.
The U.S. Chamber has the honor of partnering with the U.S. State Department to host the CEO Summit of the Americas, the official private sector stakeholder forum of the Summit proceedings starting today. I can attest that the level of interest among regional heads of state, their governments, and hemispheric business leaders in achieving tangible outcomes is extraordinarily high, and it’s easy to understand why.
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The twin global health and economic crises spawned by the pandemic hit our region as hard as any. Despite accounting for less than nine percent of the world’s population, the western hemisphere has suffered nearly one-third of the planet’s COVID-19-related deaths. The pandemic’s impact has been exacerbated by stagnant economic growth and longstanding ills such as poverty, inequality, insecurity, corruption, and inadequate health care. As the hemisphere emerges from the cloud of COVID, new challenges such as rising inflation, especially in the food and energy sectors, threaten to further expose the region’s fragility.
Both government and private sector decision makers alike see the upcoming Summit as an opportunity to drive urgently needed public-private solutions. The U.S. and regional private sectors are committed to the cause of generating inclusive and sustainable growth throughout the Americas, and we have aligned our six priorities for the CEO Summit with those of the government Summit to encourage joint solutions.
Our top priority is promoting a strong rule of law throughout the region, as this is foundational to the success of our other objectives. We will cement collaboration with governments in Latin America and the Caribbean that are working to strengthen domestic institutions and enhance transparency, predictability, and certainty for business, and show how they stand to benefit from new investment and supply chain rebalancing because of it.
Our second priority is a pro-growth trade agenda, which is integral to the success of the entire hemispheric economy. The Chamber and regional private sector will work with policymakers to enhance market access and economic integration, prioritizing critical objectives such as improved supply chain resilience across the Americas.
Third, we seek to build more resilient health economies by leveraging private sector financing measures and digital health innovations to increase investment in health infrastructure and expand access to care.
Next, we will work to close the digital divide while advancing the technological transitions catalyzed by the pandemic. Digital innovation will support greater growth, transparency, and economic inclusion across the region. From governments, we will be seeking consistency of regulatory frameworks to optimize the efficacy of these tools.
Our fifth priority is easing the energy crisis. In addition to accelerating the production needed to drive down costs, we will illustrate ways in which the private sector is promoting an energy transition and advancing sustainability best practices.
Finally, we will ensure that small- and medium-sized enterprises – especially those led by women and minority entrepreneurs – are included in the opportunities that result from all of the above priorities. As the region’s prime job creators and engines of growth, no solution would be possible without their help.
More than just a single event, the CEO Summit of the Americas must drive momentum for action. The U.S. private sector is already working with our government to make certain we use the next two years of U.S. Summit oversight to advance follow-on activities and implement regional collaboration.
Since the last Summit of the Americas was held in 2018, our region and our world have changed forever. It’s our duty now to ensure better outcomes for all. For that to happen, leaders from the public and private sectors across the hemisphere must find consensus on our shared challenges and opportunities. The Summit of the Americas is our chance to lead from the front on solutions for our hemisphere and the rest of the world. Let’s make certain we take it.