A Cohesive American Vision?

Thomas O’Keefe, President, Mercusor Consulting

As someone who started working on the campaign of Barack Hussein Obama to get him elected to the White House in the Spring of 2007, it is with disappointment that I await the official opening of the Summit of the Americas today in Port of Spain, Trinidad. I joined the campaign when pundits and the “smart” money didn’t give Obama any chance of winning the Democratic Party nomination let alone the Presidency. I sensed, though, that the candidate with whom I shared the same year of birth, profession, and even a university degree and who had also spent some of his most formative years living in the developing world intuitively understood what was fundamentally wrong about U.S. foreign policy and what desperately needed to be reformed. I still feel that way. I also understood early on that Latin America and the Caribbean would never figure high on Obama’s list of foreign policy priorities if he ever won, despite the fact that I and almost 20 percent of my fellow Americans can trace our origins there.

Two years after I joined his campaign, Obama arrives in Trinidad as my country’s President without any cohesive vision to present to the other 33 democratically elected leaders of the Western Hemisphere on the future of U.S. relations with the region. While Obama has stated
that he has come to listen, a welcome change from how many previous U.S. presidents treated their hemispheric peers, this is not enough.
Obama needs to at least offer a framework for establishing a mutually beneficial hemispheric partnership and then invite input from the other gathered leaders. Creating a Community of the Americas, a concept detailed in my new book “Latin American and Caribbean Trade Agreements: Keys to a Prosperous Community of the Americas”
[http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=210&pid=28501] provides precisely the missing strategic vision that can both excite the imagination and engage the inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere to ensure it is
fulfilled. Some of the most pressing problems facing the United States today can only be resolved by working closely with its southern neighbors, whether it be controlling migration flows, finding new export markets for goods and services, ensuring energy security, or reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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