A deliberate and inclusive path to influence: The 10th anniversary of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council

Over the past ten years, one of the defining features of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council has been its commitment to consultation and consensus-building. This approach engages stakeholders, both regional and international, and forces them to break through the noise and find common ground on critical issues in the region, said the Director of the Center, Jason Marczak in an interview with Latin Trade.  In the end, the approach has ensured that a wide range of perspectives is always represented and gives longevity to policy ideas.

Jason Marczak provided a concise list, offering a glimpse into the Center’s impactful projects over its decade-long history, showcasing both its methodology and the breadth of its influence.

The power of consultation: a brief inventory

Mexico: Jason Marczak traveled to Laredo and San Antonio in Texas in a sort of border roadshow where he presented the work that the Center has done. “I presented new data to change the discussion or to have a parallel discussion about the border”.

He, of course, talked about immigration, but also referred to the border as an economic engine and as an economic tool for North America.

“We had released a report in Mexico City and in Washington, but I went down to the border to highlight what a 10-minute reduction in wait times could mean for the U.S. economy at large and for the economy of border states,” Marczak said. The Center’s study shows that this reduction would bring in more than $300 million in additional commerce from Mexico into the United States annually. “Doing nothing else but just reducing the wait time.”

There is another highly relevant moral to this story: “New data is what helps to move policy. It helps to move stakeholders. It provides them with the ability to to change the discourse,” the executive emphasized.

In what is normally a highly polarized environment, the Adrienne Arsht Center for Latin America found unexplored, practical collaboration prospects.  “We talked about success. We worked with border communities, involving their Mexican counterparts, to explore opportunities for the border”.

In their signature style, the Center’s team achieved this in a bipartisan manner within the U.S.. “We worked with Republican and Democrat offices during our consultations”. They are likely to continue in the same vein, informing the Mexican Congress.

Guatemala: The Center has played an important role in northern Central America, particularly in Guatemala, advocating for reforms essential to incentivize investment.

During a period marked by a challenging US-Guatemala relationship, the ability to identify opportunities for collaboration beyond government-to-government interactions has been crucial for this independent think tank. Finding common ground in vital areas, in a nonpartisan manner, has been its approach. “We hosted both Bernardo Arrivano and Sandra Torres within 24 hours to talk about what they saw as the future of their country.”

At the same time the Center kept Latin American issues bipartisan in the U.S., “finding what bring us together.”

Colombia: The Center has provided important perspectives in the region, bringing together groups that might not collaborate due to differing political priorities.

“I’m very proud that we’ve had a US-Colombia task force, and a US-Colombia Advisory Group in place for the last six years, at a time in which there is a shift in Colombia, and a shift in the perspective of the Colombian government.”

“We have found common ground, and consensus among disparate stakeholders in Colombia, the EU and the U.S. We also kept the door open, at a time when there is a new era with a lot of challenges across the region.”

Venezuela: The Center has been extensively engaged with Venezuela, striving to formulate policies that prioritize the restoration of democracy, support democratic institutions, and uphold human rights.

Simultaneously, the Center seeks an economic framework that does not undermine the Venezuelan people’s well-being, ensuring they are not victimized. It is a delicate balance it has carefully navigated over the years, collaborating closely with various stakeholders within Venezuela and on the global stage. “This involvement includes our Venezuela working group and other platforms aimed at international engagement.”

Brazil “We played a very active role in several trade and investment deals announced years ago. We continue our focus on enhancing Brazil’s role as a stronger trade and investment partner for the United States, now with a lens on sustainability issues,” Jason Marczak stated.

Caribbean: “A couple of years ago we started a Caribbean initiative because we recognized there was a need for a more dedicated focus on the English-speaking countries of the Caribbean. Oftentimes, these nations are not front and center in regional policy discussions.” Jason Marczak stated.

The Center recently hosted President Irfaan Ali. Guyana boasts the world’s fastest-growing economy, showcasing not just within the Caribbean but also in Washington, the extensive opportunities for enhanced Caribbean partnership with the United States, the executive added.

“I was so pleased that we organized a summit on energy security and and climate resilience alongside Vice President Harris’s trip to the Bahamas in June.”

The Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center has invested significant efforts in promoting financial inclusion in the Caribbean and tackling the substantial challenge of de-risking.

During Maxine Waters’ tenure as chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, there was close collaboration. The Center-led task force, including Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley, successfully led to a hearing that assessed the need for addressing de-risking.

China-LAC: Five years ago we started work on China’s role in the region from from a slightly different perspective than what you generally see. From the perspective of how do we represent the interests of the region engaging with China but also the concerns from Washington about engaging with China.

Five years ago, the focus of Jason Marczak’s team shifted to examining China’s role in the Latin America and the Caribbean region from a unique standpoint: one that considers representing the region’s interests while engaging with China, alongside Washington’s concerns regarding such engagements.

The approach diverges from simply broadcasting challenges with China or discouraging engagement. “It is not about breaking out the bullhorn on the challenges with China and why countries should not engage, but more about by providing, which is what we always do, providing nuanced data, new insight on China’s current relations with the region,” Jason Marczak concluded.