Blinken Discusses Economic Agenda, Challenges at Summit of the Americas
LOS ANGELES — Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the stage at the Ninth Summit of the Americas on Wednesday to discuss the economic priorities of the Biden-Harris administration and how its international partnerships play into those commitments.
Blinken was joined onstage by U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant, who asked him what a successful summit would look like when all is said and done. Blinken highlighted the challenges of delivering concrete results in assembling capital throughout the hemisphere.
“I think the private sector is a critical partner in virtually everything that we’re doing,” Blinken said during the discussion. “And in fact, one of the greatest strengths we bring to the table is our ability to work together with the private sector in ways that other countries don’t or can’t. So, we want to see that mobilize to the greatest extent possible.”
Blinken touched on how international economic partnerships are crucial to developing greater health resilience through lessening the “huge disparities” by leveraging the private sector to strengthen basic health services. One of those initiatives involves the United States’ commitment to training 500,000 health professionals, generalists and specialists over the next two years.
By effectively developing the basic level of health services both domestically and internationally, Blinken said governments will be better prepared to manage a future pandemic while also making a difference in the daily lives of their citizens. This issue will be addressed through a summit declaration that focuses on intergovernmental cooperation that dovetails with President Joe Biden’s economic agenda.
“There are huge needs but also huge opportunities to come together in a way that actually is beneficial to our economies and also beneficial to climate, beneficial to our energy security and infrastructure development,” Blinken said. “And we will do more in a positive way to bridge digital divides that exist within our countries, but also within the hemisphere itself, by facilitating digital trade [and] doing it in a way that’s secure and upholds basic democratic principles but is also much more inclusive.”
Blinken’s comments on overcoming the digital divide correspond with lawmakers’ efforts to include four interconnected broadband components already passed in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan, which appropriated tens of billions of dollars to boost the affordability and access of universal broadband. But deploying all that capital will require strong private sector partnerships, Blinken said, if the economic environment lacks proper regulatory frameworks.
Federal officials needn’t look any further for an example of this than when Americans lost around $48 million from fraud related to COVID-19 aid, as previously reported by The Well News. In that situation, fraudsters scammed millions of vulnerable people by filing fraudulent unemployment insurance claims and siphoning CARES Act funds through false means, among other methods.
“It is vital that [we and all our partners] work together to deal with this because, for example, as we’ve discussed there’s a lot of capital out there but it’s not going to be deployed if the environment in which you want to deploy it is simply too risky and too complicated,” Blinken said.
Blinken added that he “didn’t want to get too ahead” of himself during the discussion because Biden would be addressing the same issue later on Wednesday and that discussions with the other participating heads of state had yet to happen. Tapping other major stakeholders for assistance in implementing the economic agenda is important for delivering results on climate change mitigation, the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, emerging technology, migration and other key issues of the Biden administration’s plans, he said.
“So it’s, in a sense, as basic as that,” Blinken added. “If we can’t find ways to effectively partner, we’re not going to meet these challenges. If we don’t meet these challenges, we’re not going to be responsive to our citizens. And if we’re not responsive to our citizens they’ll let us know, so we need to get this right.”
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