Salazar and Espaillat: US legislators champion putting actions where there were just words

María Salazar and Adriano Espaillat / DR1

Republican Florida representative Maria Salazar and Democratic New York representative Adriano Espaillat expressed optimism the US Congress will pass the Americas Act that ensures funding and actions to step up US participation in development strategies in that country’s back door, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Americas Act introduced in March 2024 is a follow-up to the Dignity Act, submitted to the US Congress in May 2023. Both bills seek bipartisan support to revert the migration processes underway in the region after years of the United States investing in Asia rather than in “their back yard”. The legislators say the US government and opposition see in the Americas Act a “game changer” for robust development in the Americas.

Salazar and Espaillat championed the bill when presenting at the 54th Americas Society/Council of the Americas meeting on 8 May 2024 in Washington, D. C. together with other panelists who spoke about how US business is now joining the US government in actions that can make the difference in the Americas. Eric Farnsworth, Vice President, Council of the Americas was the moderator of the panel and also expressed hope these bipartisan actions will make a difference.

Bipartisan support in the US Congress is rare. “We know that Latin America has been forgotten over the last few decades,” said Salazar. “The Americas Act sends a message to our Latin American neighbors that if they improve their democracies, solidify their judicial systems, protect freedom of expression, and free their markets, the United States will allow them to join USMCA, the gold standard of trade agreements.” Salazar calls the United States, Mexico and Canada the “big boys club” of trade.

The Americas Act was introduced to the US Congress in March 2024 to create an ever-expanding and permanent trade partnership of Western Hemisphere countries and counter China’s growing control over global manufacturing and geopolitics. Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party also joined the bill as a cosponsor.

The bill is described by the legislators as one that unites the democracies in the Western Hemisphere through trade, investment, and a shared commitment to free enterprise. It will create jobs, grow the American economy, and bring prosperity to Latin America and the Caribbean.

In a press release on the event, congresswoman Salazar says that at a time when China is penetrating the Western Hemisphere more every day, the Americas Act is the best way for the United States to show allies in Latin America that the US will always remain the best trading partner and ally in the world.

The Americas Act is built on the fundamental premise that nations in the hemisphere who value democracy and free markets should be able to more easily do business with the United States. The legislation brings US companies back from China to the United States and the Western Hemisphere, providing jobs and opportunities while reversing the incentives for migration.

Salazar is the Chairwoman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is a leader in Congress on foreign policy in Latin America.

Salazar also championed the bipartisan Dignity Bill that was introduced by Salazar and Veronica Escobar (D-TX) in May 2023 to address the challenges on the immigration system in the US.

Salazar insisted that if the jobs are at home, people will not migrate. She hopes to motivate Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela to join this club to create a trading block from Tierra del Fuego to Canada. “Trade gives jobs, creates prosperity and happiness. It allows you to stay home,” emphasized the legislator.

Dominican-born Adriano Espaillat says the bill creates incentives for countries to respect rule of law, work within parameters of what a strong democracy can provide.

“The devil is in the details,” said Espaillat. He says the Americas Act addresses the Generalized System of Preferences that created incentives for jobs to be pulled out of Caribbean and Latin American countries and created in Asia.

The Americas Act provides for US$60 billion in loans for people to now do business in the Americas, with grants of US$500 million for apparel, textile and medical devices and equipment.

Espaillat highlighted: “The funds seek to reduce the trade deficit with the US, strengthen relationships and fight back against China’s incursion in the Americas by addressing the root cause of migration in the southern border by creating jobs in those countries.”

Espaillat mentioned nearshoring and business opportunities and the challenges of the inflexibilities in supply chains and the present overdependence on some regions and the need to make more businesses aware that there are opportunities within the Americas.

He said the Covid-19 pandemic exposed the weaknesses and made apparent the opportunities “next door.”

The Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador had agreed to work together in democracy. The US government now wants to move this initiative to work for the rest of the region.

“This bill strengthens our partnership with our friends. We need to reward our friends. For far too long we have turned our heads, and they have looked outside the hemisphere. We are paying the price,” he stressed.

Salazar is optimistic the bi-partisan bill will pass. She said there is political wiliness and the Biden Administration likes the bill. “This is a trade and migration bill. If people get jobs they will stay home.”

She spoke of the give and take in the US Congress and said the Republican leadership needs to bring up the bill in the House of Representatives where they are majority, and then the democratic leadership needs to bring it up in the Senate where they are majority.

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Maria Salazar
Adriano Espaillat

9 May 2024