Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
June 10, 2022
The second day of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Summit of the Americas has concluded following a full slate of programming featuring government and business leaders from across the Western hemisphere.
Discussions focused on how the ongoing digital transformation is boosting economic opportunity, how digital tools are helping small businesses and entrepreneurs in the region to grow, and the impact of the energy transition on regional environmental and sustainability goals.
U.S. President Joe Biden made a special appearance at the CEO Summit where he made a pitch for increased investment, trade, and partnership between the countries of the Western hemisphere.
“We believe in the incredible economic potential of the Americas. I know I do. We all do. The potential is unlimited. The region is filled with dynamic energy and entrepreneurs who are ready to break out, innovators who will change the way we think and the way we do things,” President Biden said. “The private sector is able to move quickly to mobilize vast amounts of investment capital, and you're going to be needed to unlock the enormous potential for growth in this hemisphere.”
If you could not tune in to yesterday’s events, we have recapped the main takeaways below:
Highlighting international trade’s power in creating jobs and investment
The CEO Summit highlighted the important economic bonds between the countries of the Americas and the importance of digital tools and accessibility in strengthening these bonds.
“Our countries don’t just trade widgets and grain—but ideas, know-how, and culture. Our economies rise and fall together—as does our competitive standing in the world. And today, we must rise to the challenges confronting our region,” said Suzanne P. Clark, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
According to Clark, the Americas represent one of the largest trading and investment partnerships in the world with:
- U.S. trade across the Americas totaling nearly $2 trillion per year.
- U.S. companies having invested more than $1.4 trillion across the other nations of the Americas.
- American companies directly employing four million people across the region and supporting millions of additional jobs indirectly.
At the CEO Summit, Clark announced that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is starting up a Resilience Operations Center of the Americas to serve as a virtual hub—connecting businesses across the region to enhance operational resilience.
“As we emerge from this pandemic, we must be prepared for the next one—or any other disaster or crisis that could take a toll on people’s lives and livelihoods,” Clark said. “The Center will also coordinate with governments to strengthen the private sector’s response to future crises.”
Several other panelists noted the importance of private sector companies teaming up with government to solve big problems facing the hemisphere.
“Partnerships, whether it’s with industry and government, or industry and communities, those partnerships help you accelerate the ability to make change,” said Shilpan Amin, president, International, at GM. "Partnerships help you accelerate the ability to make change, and so we need to partner with our government officials around the world.”
Growing economic opportunity through technology and digital skills
According to various panelists, one of the key enablers of future growth in the Americas will be the continued adoption of, and access to, the latest digital tools.
“Companies are not just using technology, they are becoming technology companies,” said Rodrigo Kede Lima, corporate vice president and president for Latin America at Microsoft.
Lima added that training and education were fundamental to addressing the chronic shortage of workers in technology.
“Talent is a challenge everywhere in technology,” Lima said. “We have more open positions than people, so the only way to solve the gap in talent is by reskilling people, and today you do have tools and technology to accelerate learning and training.”
Pilar Cruz, chief sustainability officer at Cargill, said her company was using digital tools to see down into the supply chain to learn where their agricultural goods were being sourced—and then sharing that information with customers.
“We have very strong partnerships with everybody throughout the supply chain. From farm to fork, including customers and suppliers, financial institutions, local community organizations, NGOs, and the government as well. We do believe that we need to pull the talent and the expertise and the capabilities of all these organizations together in order to make meaningful impact,” Cruz said.
Enabling small business growth through digital transformation
Giving entrepreneurs and small businesses the digital infrastructure and tools they need to tell their stories will be a prerequisite of boosting economic growth across the Americas, various panelists said.
Just before the Summit, Google announced a major five-year, multi-billion dollar commitment to invest in Latin America.
“We are incredibly excited to announce a commitment of $1.2 billion to the Latin American region across four main areas: digital infrastructure, helping people grow their digital skills, supporting entrepreneurs, and through our philanthropic arm—making sure the growth is inclusive and sustainable,” said Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google.
Part of this funding will go to fostering startups in the region, he said.
“There are world-class entrepreneurs everywhere. They just need access to capital resources to mentorship, and the supporting infrastructure,” Pichai said. “If you look at successful economies, they have a robust private sector, and underlying that is a strength in small and medium businesses.”
Driving the energy transition and promoting sustainability
Another challenge facing the region and the world is the transition to a lower-carbon future. Several participants noted the strides their companies had already made—or plan to make—in pursuing more sustainable business practices.
“We set out to make a very bold commitment to be net-zero carbon by 2040, accelerating the Paris Agreement commitment by ten years. We want to figure out how to do this, we don’t know all of how we’ll do that, but we need to get started today,” said Kara Hurst, vice president, worldwide sustainability at Amazon. “We are working first and foremost to decarbonize in our own company and then to share what we know.”
Erick Scheel, CEO of PepsiCo Beverages Latin America, said his company was working to improve its plastic recycling efforts.
"We are putting a sustainability agenda at the core," Scheel said. “We have reduced the amount of plastic that we use for bottles in the last 10 years by 40%. We know we're going to be able to recycle 50% of plastic by 2030. But to get to 100%, that's going to be more difficult.”
Sec. John Kerry, special envoy for climate for the U.S., said that there was real eagerness from countries and companies across the Americas to engage and make progress toward a lower-carbon future.
“There's an extraordinary set of opportunities,” Kerry said. “No government in the world has enough money to be able to implement this transition. It only happens if we excite the private sector, and the private sector takes the lead, really, in producing the products and the technologies that we need.”