For decades, Latin America policy specialists have lamented how the Western Hemisphere is never a priority for U.S. presidents. For all the United States’ economic and cultural ties with the region, however, America’s neighbors to the south do not face the kinds of imminent threats that tend to get a president’s undivided attention -- and fortunately so.
But while Latin America may never, and arguably should never, figure on the list of the U.S. executive’s top concerns, several innovative pushes across the U.S. foreign policy apparatus would not only dramatically help advance U.S. relations and leadership in the region, they would also set the tone for relations for decades to come, while making sure the region never gets what many have wrongly longed for: the president’s urgent attention.
Decades of bipartisan U.S. policies promoting free trade agreements, collaboration in areas such as security, institutional reform and development, and protections for human rights and democracy today provide a strong foundation for a new kind of policy approach to the hemisphere -- one built on mutual interests that can shore up not just U.S. leadership in the region but hemispheric leadership globally. After all, the real importance of hemispheric relations extends beyond North-South issues, and affects the global economic and diplomatic power of both sides.