International Trade Administration chief Marisa Lago said recently that expanding export opportunities will be a key feature of the U.S. approach to promoting trade and investment with Latin America.

In remarks to the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and the Caribbean, Lago said recent years have seen “both new and recurring obstacles to doing business” in the region, from the COVID-19 pandemic to “long-held outrage against social injustice, corruption, and inequality of opportunity.” Now, after “three decades of broadly expanding freedoms and growth,” the region “faces a difficult path forward, with faltering economies, weakening rule of law, and citizens losing faith in democracy.”

Reversing these trends is a priority that guides the ITA’s work, Lago said, which will focus on strengthening the competitiveness of U.S. industry and workers, promoting trade and investment, and ensuring fair trade practices.

U.S. businesses and workers need fair and consistent rules in export markets to strengthen their competitiveness, and Lago said that while this foundation already exists in parts of the region “we need to do more to advocate for U.S.  businesses, including combatting trade barriers, bolstering intellectual property protections, and promoting predictable legal and regulatory structures.” The U.S. “must also expand export lanes,” including by increasing the number and diversity of exporters, developing and implementing a Clean Technologies Export Competitiveness Strategy, and expanding U.S. companies’ infrastructure procurement opportunities in areas such as climate, digital connectivity, health and health security, and gender equality.

Lago also emphasized the importance of transparency in access, procurement, and regulation, which “ensures that markets are not just attractive for their export potential, but also good places to do business.” The U.S. is working to improve transparency in the region by harmonizing regulatory practices, simplifying trade facilitation processes, and promoting sector-based ethics frameworks, among other efforts.

The U.S. is also working to sharpen tools for economic and national security spanning a range of threats and a range of industries, Lago said, including cyber, climate, investment screening, and critical minerals. However, she highlighted “the importance of resilient supply chains to our prosperity and security,” particularly in light of pandemic-related disruptions that “exposed preexisting vulnerabilities and made clear the need for focused government action to improve transparency and coordination.” The U.S. is already prioritizing critical sectors in partnership with industry, labor, and civil society stakeholders, she said, and later this year will host a supply chain ministerial forum to expand cooperation with partner nations.

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