When I recovered from the shock of hearing Latin America in a debate, I wondered what the heck he was talking about. We have FTAs all over the place in Latin America and have tons of trade even with our so-called adversaries. Interestingly, Romney does not even mention Latin America in the trade portion of his campaign website.I wrote a little about this topic in my last Al Jazeera opinion piece.
In terms of what he would set out to accomplish during his first year in office, Romney has promised to "launch a vigorous public diplomacy and trade promotion effort in the region - the Campaign for Economic Opportunity in Latin America (CEOLA) - to extol the virtues of democracy and free trade and build on the benefits conferred by the free trade agreements reached with Panama and Colombia, as well as those already in force with Chile, Mexico, Peru and the members of the Central American Free Trade Agreement".
Never mind that the benefits of free trade to the US and to the countries identified previously are contested, but few of the remaining Latin American countries - Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Cuba - are currently interested in the type of free trade that the US is exporting. It is not a matter of explaining the benefits of free trade to them yet again. The US would do better to strengthen existing agreements by working with our hemispheric trade partners to make trade freer and fairer for the region's most vulnerable populations.
Romney hopes that CEOLA might "set the stage for eventual membership in the Reagan Economic Zone for nations throughout Latin America and the creation of strong and mutually economic beneficial ties between the region and the United States". By adopting the name "Reagan Economic Zone", Governor Romney might have doomed this initiative before ever having assumed office.
It is one thing to promote President Ronald Reagan as a force for democracy in the world when campaigning for the Republican nomination or for the general election in the US. It is quite another to use his name and legacy to promote economic reform and democracy in a region where many, including several of today's presidents, associate the former president's tenure with torture, disappearances, murder and other human rights violations. And it is not only recent history on which Romney and the rest of the people of the Americas differ.It looks like Romney's approach to Latin America will be driven by trade as well as fear from security threats emanating from the island of Cuba and from Venezuela. It's not going to be driven by concerns about human rights, democracy, citizen security, etc.
My question is why didn't the candidates speak about immigration? While it is both a domestic and foreign policy issue, I honestly have no idea why it didn't come up last night.