With reconciliation accomplished in Honduras by Colombia and Venezuela with no U.S. intervention and trade flowing away from the U.S., it seems as if Latin America is now wide open for other players to come into play with strong political and economic roles, and Canada should take this golden opportunity as soon as possible.
Indeed, as Washington is fixed in the Middle East, it seems to ignore everything that goes on in its own neighborhood. Still in the logic of a Cold War of sorts, the US chooses not to act or improve relations (whether political or economic) or increase assistance to the Latin Americans unless it feels an imminent military threat looming nearby.
Many columnists and prominent thinkers have called attention to this lack of vision regarding Latin America, from Joel Hirst from the Council on Foreign Relations to Mauricio Cárdenas from Brookings, or even Luis Alberto Moreno, Head of the Interamerican Development Bank. In the end, many are talking about the Decade of Latin America.
Already, Asia is moving in. Most prominent is China, but some argue that China’s economic power will not last long. Indeed, the fellows at Stratfor say that China’s economic miracle is “as unsustainable as a ponzi scheme” for three reasons: It needs a consistent 8% growth rate to survive, this would surpass global capacity (which is impossible) and it will crumble rapidly when a crisis hits. The words may be harsh, but they may as well be true.
Moreover, China seems only compelled to the region because of raw materials. That doesn’t necessarily give China a strong foothold on the region, let alone with other competitors coming into play, or even the emerging economies within Latin America. Indeed, Brazil and Mexico can assert their leadership in the region more strongly and enhance the so-called south-south cooperation.
Medium powers come into play as well, as Colombia is recovering its long lost political leadership in the region, and the economy overall is growing. Some of the old partners are returning, as agreements with Europe are being signed, and there are new partners as well, as India is increasing its move in the developing world and Turkey, a grand Middle East power, is starting a diplomatic mission in Colombia.
But the player that should be trying to aggressively expand to the region is Canada: it has a very good international reputation as a multilateralist and peaceful player (despite having US-friendly Harper as Prime Minister) and it has the economic power and financial stability to make the move (as it wasn’t hit very hard by the current crisis, thanks to its resilient financial and banking sector).
Moreover, Canada would benefit from stronger economic relations with other countries as it’s very dependent on the US economy (it was its exports that were hit the hardest with the crisis) and it needs to stabilize the flow of immigrants, as it is a quite underpopulated country, and Latin American immigrants would be some of the best available. Having the same (or close) time zones and a similar culture (compared to others, as Latin America is quite Westernized), then Latin Americans can effectively bolster Canada’s workforce and through family and business ties improve economic and political relations with the region.
Indeed, Canada has much to gain from Washington’s fix on the Middle East, but it has to be more assertive and adventurous regarding its foreign policy. Latin America would also gain a lot from Canada, as a stronger partnership with this specific country may mean more economic and social development, with not so many security and hardliner strings attached as cooperation with the US implies.