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Biden to open Summit of the Americas amid tensions over guest list

US President Joe Biden arrived in Los Angeles on Wednesday to formally open the Summit of the Americas as his administration navigates fallout from a partial boycott of the conference by key regional leaders.

Los Angeles, 9 June 2022 (tca/dpa/MIA) — US President Joe Biden arrived in Los Angeles on Wednesday to formally open the Summit of the Americas as his administration navigates fallout from a partial boycott of the conference by key regional leaders.

Biden is expected to outline his plan to revive Latin American economies in the wake of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, as well as to unveil an economic framework that the White House asserts will mobilize private investment in the region, strengthen supply chains, create clean energy jobs and address climate change, according to a senior administration official.

The president is also expected to lay out plans to reinvigorate the Inter-American Development Bank and strengthen health security, including training 500,000 public health and medical professionals within five years.

The Latin American and Caribbean region was among the hardest hit by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, accounting for more than 40% of the total global reported deaths, according to the White House. The region has also grappled with economic collapse, amplified by global inflation, as well as environmental disasters and political instability.

Biden will take the stage at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles before at least 23 heads of state from the Western Hemisphere, including Canada, Brazil and Argentina. Notably missing will be Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who announced on Monday he would skip the event and instead send his foreign minister. Obrador is boycotting the summit over the White House decision to exclude antidemocratic leaders from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The leaders of Bolivia, Guatemala and Honduras are also not attending — dealing a blow to Biden’s efforts to reassert US leadership in the region on issues of economic cooperation, migration and climate change.

White House officials insist the controversy over the guest list will not undermine the president’s efforts to boost the region’s economies. Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday announced nearly $2 billion in new private investment in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, totaling about $3.2 billion in corporate pledges for regional investment since she began the initiative last year.

The president’s economic framework, however, is unlikely to satisfy those looking for more trade access. Biden administration officials emphasized that it builds on existing free trade agreements but declined to say how much the US would invest in the plan. The framework has yet to have any countries sign on as participants.

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