President’s Column Q1- 2023

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over a year ago, the geo-political fault lines continue to have ripple effects across the Americas.   Besides the irreparable harm inflicted on the lives of millions of Ukrainians and their homeland, the on-going war has resulted in a growing number migrating to the U.S. through our southern border with Mexico.  Additionally, global commodity markets have been destabilized, in particular for basic food commodities like grains as well as oil and natural gas.

Last month, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion with 141 countries calling for the immediate withdrawal of their military forces from Ukraine.  The resolution also highlighted the need for Russia to be held accountable for war crimes.  While Nicaragua’s vote against the resolution was predictable, there were 32 other countries that abstained from voting including China as well as three countries in our Hemisphere, notably Bolivia, Cuba and El Salvador.  

While most countries across the Americas have formally denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s growing support for Russia will likely complicate geo-political decision making for many Latin American countries that have, over the past two decades, increased their dependence on China for trade and investment.   After all, today China is currently the top export market for South America and also remains a major source of foreign investment and lending for energy and infrastructure projects in the region.   China is also now actively negotiating a free trade agreement with Ecuador.   Additionally, China has stepped up its level of diplomatic engagement in the region.  Since 2015, top Chinese leaders have attended the last three summits of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), an association that does not include either the US or Canada.

U.S. Ambassador to the OAS, Francisco Mora highlighted some of these challenges as the U.S. works to promote on-going support for the Inter-American System in his keynote address at IOA on March 7th.  In his remarks, Amb. Mora noted the “importance of not only the Organization of American States (OAS) but also the need for a renewed focus on human rights and democratic governance” at a time when these core values are being challenged by both Russia and China in our region with alternative narratives about the benefits and expediency of autocratic rule.

Within this context, I remain hopeful that the Biden Administration’s stepped up efforts in support of the Americas Partnership for Economic Progress (APEP) will bear fruit, but this will greatly depend on greater bipartisan support and a sustained U.S. commitment towards expanded trade and investment in Latin America and the Caribbean.    The nine country members that have joined forces with the US on APEP – namely Barbados, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay –have high hopes that the initiative will help catalyze expanded economic growth in the region particularly in these uncertain economic times.   For APEP to succeed, increased engagement and investment by U.S. businesses will prove critical.  Towards this end, IOA has expanded its outreach with companies in California including a recent talk I gave to the California Chamber of Commerce.

Due to the war in Ukraine, there is a growing need in Europe for alternate suppliers of natural gas resources.  Here, countries across the Americas – including the U.S., Argentina, Brazil and Trinidad & Tobago – are beginning to step up their role as key LNG exporters.   This topic and others will be highlighted in the Institute of the Americas’ upcoming Madrid Energy Conference scheduled on April 18-20.

As the Institute begins rolling out its various programmatic initiatives for the year, I am pleased to welcome the new members of our board, advisory board and Non-Resident Fellows.  New members of IOA’s Board include: Tad Parzen, President & CEO of the San Diego-based Burnham Center for Community Advancement and Alexandra Valderrama, International Government Affairs Director at Chevron.   Additionally, Cheryl Hammond, has recently joined our International Advisory Council and Carlos Eduardo Correa, Colombia’s former Secretary of Environment & Sustainable Development and the former Mayor of Montería, is now an Institute Non-Resident Fellow supporting our Environment & Climate Change program.  

Finally, I want to express my sincere appreciation to Malin Burnham, a long-standing supporter of the Institute over the years.  Now 95 years of age, Malin recently stepped down from our board after having served for over 20 years.    While I will miss Malin at our meetings, I am so grateful for his on-going support through the Burnham Foundation and the sage advice he continues to provide us that helps IOA up its game in service to our stakeholders across the Americas.  

Thank you for your on-going interest and support of the Institute of the Americas.   We look forward to your active participation in our programs both virtually and in person this year.


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Richard Kiy