LatinNews Daily - 06 April 2023

MEXICO/REGION: López Obrador leads regional anti-inflation drive

On 5 April, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador hosted a virtual anti-inflation summit for countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.


López Obrador hosted the summit in his capacity as pro tempore president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac). Representatives from ten Celac member countries – Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Honduras, Venezuela, and St Vincent and Grenadines – attended the meeting, which focused on developing a regional anti-inflation plan to lower the cost of food and other basic goods. The theme of the day was strength through unity, with López Obrador stressing that each country had something to offer in the way of exports and that mutual agreements to lower trade barriers such as tariffs and sanitary restrictions would result in lower prices. The proposals appeared to be well received by those who attended the meeting, as the region continues to struggle against rising or elevated inflation. Notably, the region’s few remaining right-leaning governments were absent from the summit, suggesting a politicisation of the initiative that was also apparent in the inclusion of the authoritarian governments of Venezuela and Cuba. 

  • López Obrador proposed upping regional trade to lower the prices of goods. He said this could be done by reaching agreements to “do away with obstacles, tariffs, sanitary measures” and streamlining imports and exports through ports and borders.
  • In a joint statement, those who attended the summit stated they had met given the negative impact that “extra-regional military conflicts”, the “slow recovery” from the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, “large external debt”, and “climate phenomena” was having on the supply of basic food products.
  • The attendees agreed to establish a technical working group made up of government representatives from each country with the objective of determining regional cooperation measures to facilitate trade. The group will carry out a feasibility study and recommend measures to improve the flow of goods through ports and borders.
  • Additionally, the working group will promote measures to facilitate access to international credit and increase multilateral financing for agricultural, agro-industrial and infrastructure projects for the transport of merchandise, as well as coordinating efforts with the private sector to follow up on the agreements resulting from the summit.
  • López Obrador noted that although inflation appeared to be slowing in many countries, it remained a major threat. Hours before the summit took place, Mexico’s national statistics institute (Inegi) released the latest figures for the consumer price index (INPC), which showed prices rose by 0.27% in March as compared to the previous month, bringing annual inflation to 6.85%. This is down from annual inflation of 7.62% in February and represents the lowest annual rate since October 2021.
  • On Twitter, Chile’s President Gabriel Boric thanked López Obrador for organising the summit, stating that “we are united by the urgency of strengthening our economies and addressing the high cost of living in support of the wellbeing of the peoples.”
  • Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández tweeted that guaranteeing food sovereignty was “fundamental”, noting this would also help to combat the negative impacts of climate change such as the current drought in Argentina, which has significantly affected the country’s agricultural sector.
  • Colombia’s trade minister, Germán Umaña, who represented President Gustavo Petro at the summit, proposed “recreating” a Latin American monetary union, so that commercial exchanges could be made without “the dominance of hard currencies”.

Looking Ahead: A follow-up in-person summit will be held from 6-7 May in Cancún, in Mexico’s Quintana Roo state. Representatives from the private sector and agricultural businesses will be invited to attend, as well as other countries in the region which did not participate in the virtual summit.

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