Tremendous and largely untapped opportunity exists for greater partnerships among companies and workers — as well as government cooperation — throughout the Americas.
Latin consumers and business leaders welcome United States leadership, ideas and innovation. And while many U.S. companies seem to dream of conquering China’s consumers, Latin America is culturally and geographically closer and the economic opportunity is massive.
The right tools — thriving democracies, sound economic governance and a growing middle class — are in place to sustain progress and promote prosperity.
Pundits and experts throughout the Western Hemisphere are prognosticating about the Obama administration’s Latin America policy in a second term. And President Obama has acknowledged the special relationship and profound potential for shared economic benefit between the United States and Latin America. In his 2011 address in Santiago, Chile, he said, “I believe that Latin America is more important to the prosperity and security of the United States than ever before. With no other region does the United States have so many connections . . . And I believe Latin America is only going to become more important to the United States, especially to our economy.”
Indeed, amid concern that the global economy is heading toward another downturn, there’s a steady stream of positive economic news coming out of Latin America.
The IMF recently forecast regional growth in the 4-5 percent range next year, above the global average.
• Latin America is one of the few regions in the world to see the gap between the rich and poor narrow over the past decade, a trend that continued despite the global economic slowdown. The growth and consolidation of a middle class is the single most important economic event for the region in a century. That’s good news for U.S. companies, farmers and workers, who can benefit from Latin America’s sustainable advancement.
• A recent study by the U.N.’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean reported that poverty has fallen to about 30 percent, down from 50 percent just 20 years ago. Over the past decade, 73 million people across the region emerged out of poverty — equal to the combined populations of California, Texas and Georgia.
• In addition, improved governance and economic reform has helped several Latin American nations secure higher credit ratings. Since 2007, Moody’s has lifted six countries — Brazil, Panama, Peru, Colombia, Costa Rica and Uruguay — to investment grade, improving business risk for multinational companies. As a result, Latin America accounted for 10 percent of global foreign direct investment last year.
• Latin America’s unemployment rate stood at 6.5 percent last year, approaching historic lows and well below a peak of 11 percent a decade ago. Its global competitiveness is improving. Labor participation by women is at 65 percent, the highest rate ever. The average years of schooling has risen by three years since the 1990s. And Mexico has recently approved its most significant labor reform in 40 years, a measure designed to restrict labor lawsuits and regulate outsourcing, among other fundamental changes for the labor market.