October 21, 2021
The 2021 Virtual Forecast on Latin America and the Caribbean Conference, hosted by the U.S. Chamber’s Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and the Caribbean (AACCLA), brought together business and political leaders from both the United States and Latin America to discuss the current state of the economy and the relationship between the Americas.
Over the course of this two-day event, panelists shared insights on how to create a resilient and sustainable global supply chain, the opportunities to revitalize certain nations, and the role foreign policy plays in supporting the Latin American and Caribbean economies.
Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Supply Chain Requires Innovative Solutions
Many companies that operate in Latin America are working to create a more resilient, sustainable global supply chain. Paola Floris, the president of CHEP Latin America, noted that her company is taking a regenerative approach to supply chain management with three “positive” pillars: planet positive, business positive, and community positive.
“These three pillars are the core of our sustainability strategy, and around these three pillars, we have beat all the targets for 2025,” said Floris, who noted that CHEP has targets like 100% of lumber purchased from sustainable forests, collaborations with customers to decrease CO2 emissions, 40% of women in managerial roles, and extended collaborations with food banks to fight against food waste.
“We believe that at the center of this discussion is to understand the context and our best ally — the farmer, the agricultural producer, and all the communities and all the workers that are around the production agricultural commodities — in order to help them be more sustainable, understand their concerns, understand their challenges and help them become much more sustainable throughout time,” added Antonio Corrochano, managing director of Cargill AG Supply Chain South America.
Panama Presents a Positive Opportunity for Nearshoring
H.E. Laurentino Cortizo, President of the Republic of Panama, has taken great strides in confronting the devastating dual health and economic crises of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the Panamanian economy contracted by nearly 18% last year, all signs point to growth this year, as the World Bank estimates the Panamanian GDP will grow by 10% in 2021.
President Cortizo proactively took steps to enhance Panama's competitiveness as a destination for foreign investment, especially when it comes to leveraging opportunities related to potential supply chain balancing from Asia and other parts of the world through shoring.
“How is the supply chain affecting the economic recovery of many countries in this case?” President Cortizo asked. “Why should Panama take advantage of that?”
“There is not any other country in Latin America and the Caribbean that has the connectivity that Panama has,” he continued. “60% of the world's commerce goes through the Panama Canal. We are a dollarized economy that connects 180 routes … we have more than 170 multinational companies that their regional headquarters are here in Panama. If a businessman or executive is analyzing the place for nearshoring, there is not a better place than Panama.”
U.S. Foreign Policy Should Prioritize the Western Hemisphere
Congressional Representative Albio Sires urged the U.S. to step up in supporting the Latin American region’s economic recovery from the pandemic, asking the U.S. government and private sector to work together to promote conditions that strengthen the rule of law, reduce corruption and enable inclusive economic growth.
While the United States has sent over 140 million vaccine doses globally, including more than 40 million to countries in the western hemisphere, according to Rep. Sires, some of our partners feel that they were forced into the arms of China.
“I believe that if we want to advance the values of economic competition and democratic governance, we need to make the Western hemisphere a priority for U.S. foreign policy,” said Representative Sires.