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Latin America: Meet President Trump

As preparations are being made to receive the leaders of the 35-member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS), the following are a few tips on how the leaders of Latin America can engage successfully with the 45th President of the United States to help insure a productive summit and a positive long-term relationship.

As an American who has over sixteen years of experience living and working in Latin America, who currently has business interests there, and who also happens to have worked on the Trump presidential campaign, I have decided to take advantage of President Trump’s upcoming visit to Latin America for the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, to comment on current conditions there and on how to make this regional summit a success. As preparations are being made to receive the leaders of the 35-member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS), I’d like to share the following tips on how the leaders of Latin America can engage successfully with the 45th President of the United States to help insure a productive summit and a positive long-term relationship.

First some background on how Latin Americans view President Trump. On a recent trip to Brazil, the largest country of Latin America, I had a discussion with a friend who is a member of one of the more liberal political parties. As our conversation moved to the topic of Donald Trump’s presidential election victory, I was somewhat surprised by his comment regarding the future of Latin America under a Trump presidency. “Donald Trump will be good for Latin America,” he stated. I asked him to explain. He went on to say that, he believed that the Trump administration would not meddle in Brazil’s local internal affairs as it occurred under the Obama administration and evidenced by leaked conversations of US embassy staff secretly acquiring information on Brazilian government officials. (revelations that caused the president of Brazil to cancel her State Visit to the White House.) My friend believed that a Trump administration would allow Latin America to handle its own political and business issues without interference. I soon came to learn that my friend was not the only one in this country with a positive opinion of the new president of the United States. In another very interesting conversation with my Uber driver, he discussed how he felt that Brazil needed its own “Donald Trump”. He explained that the people of Brazil are fed up with professional politicians and believe that none of them are trustworthy. In several other conversations with business executives, blue-collar workers and students, the need for a “Brazilian Donald Trump” type candidate in the upcoming October 2018 election was suggested. It was clear that more than a few people appreciated certain leadership qualities possessed by President Trump.

Latin America is experiencing difficult times along with a period of transition. Brazil has been going and continues to go through a gut-wrenching time. There is an ongoing investigation of a major government scandal and corruption case, one President has been impeached, another (the very popular Lula da Silva) may soon be sent to jail. There are serious crime and security issues, as well as healthcare crisis such as Zika and Yellow Fever. In Peru, President Kucsynski has just been forced to resign weeks before hosting President Trump and the Summit of the Americas because of allegations of corruption. Argentina and Colombia are trying to regain their footing after many years of economic and political turmoil. Bolivia and Ecuador are feeling the results of a sluggish economy caused by years of Socialist policies. Central America and Mexico deal with the issues of ferocious gangs which run the drug and arms trafficking enterprises, and everyone knows of the serious problems effecting the citizens of Venezuela which is causing a refugee issue for its neighbors.

Despite of all these challenges, most Latin Americans are proud, hopeful and continue to work hard in support of their countries. There is positive news to report regarding the countries of Latin America and they should proudly and respectfully share this with President Trump. Business sectors such as agriculture, mining, banking, aviation and energy continue to grow and show promise. The Latin America internal regional market agreements such as Mercosur allows the countries of Latin America to excel as both producers and consumers of goods. These markets continue to attract significant foreign investment. President Trump will respect Latin America’s leadership position in these industries. The Presidents of Latin America should inform President Trump of current Latin American investment in the United States including the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the US economy and direct US investments by major Latin American businessmen and companies. The Trump administration will react favorably to investments from Latin America in the US such as the airplane manufacturing plant established in Tampa, Florida by Brazilian aviation company Embraer. He will also be pleased to be reminded of direct investments into US businesses by Latin American billionaires such as Jorge Paulo Lemann who have invested in American companies such as Anheuser Busch, Heinz, and Burger King. These businesses provide tens of thousands of American jobs. Latin America should engage with President Trump from a position of economic strength which will establish a strong bargaining position and help to create a positive atmosphere for productive discussions on trade and business.

The 2018 Summit of the Americas provides a real opportunity for Latin America and the Trump administration to take strides to improve US-Latin American political, business and cultural relations. Although he supports American First, President Trump does not support American Only. This year’s summit is an opportunity to discuss mutual investment and fair trade. Political leaders in Latin America who may be running for office and looking for some political insights from the example of President Trump may want to focus on some of his priority campaign issues such as government reform (cutting taxes and burdensome regulations), international and homeland security, fair and balanced trade, and infrastructure development. All these are relevant issues for Latin America.

The door is open for Latin America to have a successful and mutually beneficial partnership with the US under the Trump administration. The keys are to build upon and emphasize its strengths while demonstrating the ability to confront its weaknesses and effectively clean its own house.

Jerry Pierce Jr. is President and CEO of The Interamerica Group an international business and consulting firm and sits on the board of the Hispanic 100 Foundation and the Washington Media Group.

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