During his trip to the Western Hemisphere in early February 2018 – which included stops in Mexico City, Mexico; San Carlos Bariloche and Buenos Aires, Argentina; Lima, Peru; Bogotá, Colombia; and Kingston, Jamaica – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stressed the continued importance of the region to the United States. In a speech that he made in Texas before travelling south, Secretary Tillerson highlighted the benefits of increased hemispheric energy trade, which may be the lens through which the Trump Administration views its policy for the Western Hemisphere:
“Building greater prosperity by integrating the wealth of energy resources within the hemisphere is an opportunity that is unique in the world to the Americas.”
Secretary Tillerson further stressed: “By 2040, North America is expected to add more oil production to the global markets than the entire rest of the world combined and more gas production than any other single region. … Our continent has become the energy force for this century, thanks in large part to rapid expansion in natural gas and tight oil production.” He also called for opening energy market economies in the hemisphere, saying:
“Between now and 2030, Latin America is expected to spend at least $70 billion on new electric power generation plants to fuel economic growth. … By building out a more flexible and robust energy system in our hemisphere, we can power our economies with affordable energy. … And we can make our hemisphere the undisputed seat of global energy supply.”
Energy, however, is not the only driver for improved circumstances in the Western Hemisphere, as Secretary Tillerson advocated for more market-based economies in general. He spotlighted Argentina’s recent reforms, including its own tax overhaul, as opening the Argentine economy, driving down the high inflation rate, and attracting investments. The Secretary recognized that economic development and security are not mutually exclusive.