This year’s Nexus keynote speaker, Mr. Francisco Palmieri, of the United States Department of State, is widely seen as one of the most influential U.S. diplomats in the northern regions of Latin America and the Caribbean. And he is easily one of our most important guest speakers at Nexus, since its founding five years ago.
That of course is a significant statement, having hosted a number of luminaries over the years including the former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who, at the time of his Nexus keynote speech in 2012, was still a highly passionate defender of a freer, more peaceful society in Colombia – although a good portion of his Nexus speech was directed toward Venezuela and the destructive path the country was headed down.
A Regional Shift
Now, fast forward three years and we are witnessing a rapidly changing Latin America, one that – by virtually all accounts – is growing closer to the United States. The radical change in U.S.-Cuban relations is, of course, a signature shift that is having a positive ripple effect across the region and is sure to deliver waves of opportunity to the nearshore sourcing and services industry for years to come. Also significant is the United States’ growing effort to stoke greater economic stability and growth among several Central American neighbors – specifically El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, which are together targeted to receive over US$1 billion in aid, nearly tripling previous commitments and a clear sign from the White House that the health and welfare of citizens in Latin America should be a matter of concern for the United States and its own citizens.
The chaotic environment of Washington Beltway politics in the midst of the border crisis of last summer – where finger-pointing revealed plenty of division among policy makers – has given way to a nearly universal recognition that the real goal is prosperity for these struggling Central American countries. Suddenly, policymakers in Washington want to see the same market conditions you might hear a corporate site selection executive call for, in search of the next nearshore destination. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker recently stressed the need to “create a sound business climate to attract additional foreign investment in Central America” in order to “spur more economic growth.”
This new momentum, marked by rising awareness of Latin America by the United States’ private and public sector leaders and the growing drumbeat of corporate exploration into the region, is noteworthy in itself, but the symbolism of political leaders making it a priority should not be underestimated.
A Voice of Experience
And that brings us to Mr. Palmieri. This is a 25-year U.S. diplomat with rich experience in Latin America (serving in posts in Honduras, Venezuela, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic) and someone who was called upon by the U.S. Senate to interpret and provide perspectives on the ‘border crisis’ of the summer of 2014 when thousands of Central America citizens attempted to cross into the United States. Palmieri was one of the most visible U.S. State Department officials appearing in front of Congress in the wake of the crisis and he was also a strong player in architecting the key policy goals to be presented during the upcoming Summit of the Americas’ in Panama, where President Obama is expected to further propel and define this new era of enabling prosperity in the region.
What does all this policy chatter have to do with global services, innovation, cross-border knowledge transfer and the nitty-gritty of doing business in Latin America? Well, a lot actually. From the way the State Department crafts its infamous “Travel Warnings” for countries in the region to the increased news coverage of Cuba, there is a slow and steady erosion of long-standing barriers – enabling business people to become more informed and aware of the ‘real’ issues on the ground.
Speaking of ‘real’ issues, we are especially excited about the fact that Nexus affords the opportunity to bridge the ‘national interest’ of the United States with the real-world interests of business people attending Nexus. This will partly be achieved through my onstage interview with Mr. Palmieri, where I look forward to hearing how businesses – both within and outside the U.S. – should prepare for this new era of engagement. Specifically, I will seek to get insights on several of these key areas:
- STEM development: As part of the White House’s new Central America initiative, how focused will the United States be on encouraging development of science, technology, engineering and math skills in some of the most economically challenged countries in the region?
- Travel warnings: Is the State Department planning to review, update or revise the methods used to issue travel warnings?
- Cuba and prospects: How can my business make plans now to participate in the opening of Cuba and what restrictions do I face?
- Why is the quality of life of Latin Americans relevant to the lives of U.S. citizens?
- What part will Mexico play in regional relationships with the rise of Cuba and potentially increased trade?
Our discussions with Mr. Palmieri are sure to be eye-opening, and we’re proud to host him at Nexus this year. To register for Nexus visit our site at: www.nexus2015.com