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We Need Renewed U.S. Relations with Latin America
ONC Editorial

Aug 14, 2023

Reorienting trade with Latin America is a must. (The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, whose information can be found below.)

World events like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, continued pandemic fallout and increasing trade and geopolitical tensions have inhibited globalization. They’ve cast doubt on the effectiveness of world-wide supply chains. 

Even before the pandemic disorganized supply chains, we were witnessing a globalization trend toward what is being called “regionalization.” This term refers to a phenomenon in which trade and supply chains are altered to be within areas where states possess leverage to ensure their sustainability. This phenomenon is partly driven by geoeconomic competition and economic uncertainties exposed by the pandemic. 

We see examples of this, particularly one motivated through shortages and forced government response, with personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, pharmaceuticals, rare earth minerals, semiconductors and battery components. These are all critical pieces of sustaining a developed economy, especially during a crisis. 

Regionalization presents an opportunity for the U.S. to reexamine its supply chains and ensure that its economy will not be overly disrupted by global events. To secure the U.S. economy, we must reorient trade with our neighbor, Latin America. America would carry this out through enhanced foreign direct investment, which focuses on the movement of goods and services and promotes trade agreements that help integrate local economies and take advantage of their strengths.

Regarding private investment opportunities, Brazil is currently experiencing a high degree of export growth. Still, this import growth asset is not supported by a port system with enough capacity to facilitate trade, while efficiently reducing costs for all involved. Investment in infrastructure that enables the transport of goods would help the U.S. It would also assist Brazilian authorities in further developing significant assets that prove to be mutually beneficial. 

Additionally, an emphasis should be placed on ensuring that agreements are made with long-term interests in mind. This means that fair allotments of ownership, consultation and results are mutually beneficial for the U.S. and any partnering nation to help dispel critiques of renewed American imperialist actions.

These initiatives would increase economic opportunity for Latin America, while also tackling one of the base causes of heavy immigration directed towards the U.S. 

Numerous trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its update, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (UCMCA), will require review due to the detrimental effects they have on partner states' agriculture sectors. One glaring example is the flooding of U.S. agricultural products into Mexico due to reduced trade barriers and increased market access, which price out domestic Mexican farmers. 

This phenomenon contributes to migration North in search of labor income. Economic opportunity in Latin American nations is mixed due to widely dominant industries in some sectors of individual countries that obscure opportunities for innovation and competition.

U.S.-Latin American relations are long, complex and marred with missteps and misunderstandings. There is no shortage of U.S. actions in the region that provoke memories of racism, imperialism and private interests motivating state action. To ensure this does not happen again, U.S. legislators must put into place equitable and sustainable provisions that will prevent a repeat of history, and ensure that trade relations and cultural exchange among neighbors persist in the long term.

Matthew Reyna is a recent graduate of the University of California, Irvine, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree with a double major in International Studies and Political Science. He served in the U.S. Army Reserve and is preparing for graduate school, where he hopes to gather the necessary skills to become a geopolitical analyst. He contributes to ONC’s mission as the Foreign Policy & Defense team lead.


“Executive Order on America’s Supply Chains”. White House Presidential Actions. February 24, 2021.

Legge, Stefan & Lukaszuk, Piotr. “Regionalization vs globalization: what is the future direction of trade?”. WorldEconomicForum. July 15, 2021.

“5 Brazilian Port Authorities Undergoing Privatization”. American Association of Port Authorities. 2022.

“United States - Latin America and the Caribbean Trade Developments”. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. 2021.

Martin, Eirc & Leonard, Jenny. “U.S. seeks to Bolster Latin American Economies to Curb Migration”. Bloomberg.  May 9th, 2022.

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