US-Ecuador Bilateral Relations Post COVID: Build Back Better Together

Earlier this year, Guillermo Lasso won the presidency of Ecuador with the promise to revive the economy battered by COVID-19, pledging to eliminate the country’s fiscal deficit, promote job creation and expand in-bound trade and investment including in the oil sector where doubling production and reduced state ownership are key objectives.

Since his inauguration, President Lasso has set forth additional priorities, notably forging free trade agreements with both the United States and China. A recent visit by a delegation of United States senators underscored the desire for closer US-Ecuadorian trade ties.

The Institute of the Americas hosted the two-day “US-Ecuador Bilateral Relations Post COVID: Build Back Better Together” forum to help catalyze expanded private sector engagement and investment between the United States and Ecuador.

On the first day of the forum, U.S. Ambassador Michael Fitzpatrick and Ecuadorian Ambassador to the US Ivonne Baki delivered keynote addresses followed by a Q&A session.

President Lasso’s ambitious political and economic agenda is not without hurdles. With his administration having just completed its first 100 days, President Lasso faces political challenges in implementing his plans. In particular, there is opposition in the Ecuadorian Congress on a variety of issues including approval of strategic energy projects located in environmentally sensitive tropical rainforests.

Day Two of the forum included keynote addresses by senior officials from the Lasso Administration with presentations on Ecuador’s trade and economic agenda, US-Ecuador bilateral relations on energy and climate change, and the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s education system. It also included a panel discussion on COVID-19 Impacts and Ecuador’s Economic Outlook under President Lasso.

Watch US-Ecuador Bilateral Relations Post COVID: Build Back Better Together.

When Women Have a Seat at the Table

“I have always understood women to be leaders, to be creative, to be committed, to be problem-solvers, to be diplomats and to be fierce advocates for the well-being of entire communities …. I trust that things are better when women are at the table, and quite frankly, if there are no women at your table, I’m not coming,” says feminist scholar and author Brittney Cooper.

At this year’s Women in Leadership event, the virtual table was full of extraordinary women. Seated with Cooper were astronaut and scientist Kathy Sullivan, news anchor and reporter Maria Hinojosa, and author and journalist Lynn Sherr. Sharing stories of childhood dreams, career challenges, social justice and more, the panel gave insight not just into their own journeys but what they hope for the future of women and girls everywhere. Their messages are inspiring and urge all of us to look at the world through a new lens.

Pull up a chair and watch “Women in Leadership 2021” and be part of the conversation.

Building Back Together: Canada and the United States

Sharing the longest international border in the world, Canada and the United States enjoy a truly unique relationship with similar core values, common geo-political interests, and deeply intertwined economic and cultural ties. Among Canada’s nearly 38 million people, close to 90% live within 150 miles of the U.S. border.

Together Canada and the United States have the largest bilateral trading relationship in the world with supply chains that are inextricably linked and two-way trade in goods and service totaling over $718 billion in 2019. Investment by Canadian companies in the United States is also substantial with US $495.7 billion invested in 2019. That year, U.S. companies invested $402.3 billion in Canada. This investment has contributed to employment and job growth that benefits the economies of both countries, with 1.47 million Canadians employed by U.S. owned firms and 752,000 American workers employed by Canadian companies operating in the United States.

Canada is of strategic importance to the energy security of the United States. In 2019, Canada accounted for 91% of U.S. energy imports, principally crude oil. Also, according to the US Energy Information Administration, 98% of all U.S. natural gas imports came from Canada.

Business travel and tourism is also significant between both countries. In 2019, the United States was the top destination for Canadian visitors with 20.72 million visitors. Of these Canadians, nearly one million are annual “snowbird” visitors fleeing the Canada’s colder climate for America’s south and southwest. Similarly, Canada ranked #2 as a top foreign destination for American tourists after Mexico, with 15 million travelers that year, accounting for two-thirds of all Canadian foreign visitors. The vast majority of Americans arrive to Canada by car.

Canada and the United States also have shared environmental interests leading to cooperation on a wide range of transboundary issues from water resource management, air quality, protection of migratory bird and marine mammal species, fisheries management and emergency planning and response in response to natural disasters along our common border.

In spite of our shared interdependencies, the COVID-19 pandemic has tested the Canadian-United States bilateral relationship in new ways leading to a reduction in two-way trade and investment as well as non-essential business and leisure travel over the past year. As a result, regional economies in both Canada and the United States have both suffered. Lack of early cross-border collaboration in vaccination development and distribution is now hampering economic recovery for many communities on both sides of our common border.

As we look toward the future, Canada and the United States have both learned important lessons about our shared inter-dependencies, common destiny and the need for expanded binational collaboration in the future.

This forum is an opportunity to learn from our shared COVID-19 experience to build back better together as we grapple with the emerging regional and global challenges of the 21st century including future public health crises, regional security threats, and climate change, as well as our shared interests on the global stage through international bodies such as the United Nations, NATO, WTO, G7, G20, APEC, the Artic Council and the OAS.

The Institute of the Americas’ Canada Day forum examines the binational Canada-United States relationship to explore new possibilities in the post-pandemic era.

Watch Canada and the United States – Complete Program.

Challenges & Opportunities in Central America’s Northern Triangle Region

Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (The Northern Triangle) are experiencing a historic diaspora to the southern border of the United States. The precipitants of this migration are an unprecedented economic contraction occurring after back-to-back major hurricanes compounded by a pandemic and further complicated by heightened crime, violence and corruption. The United States, particularly California, is the primary destination for Central American migrants, making this a regional issue of immediacy to Californians and to the Institute of the Americas. The Northern Triangle diaspora is also regional, affecting neighboring nations in Central America and in Mexico. The search for solutions and/or relief is now multi-national and increasingly urgent.

Collapsing rule of law, collapsing economies, insecurity, declining government revenues concurrent with rising public needs and a myriad of related complications are not likely treatable by strictly internal adjustments. A consensus is developing that only a regional multi-pronged strategy to strengthen both democracy and the economies of Central American countries provides plausible hope for relief. The expectation is that a multi-pronged strategy could help diminish the extent to which these problems reach the U.S. southern border. How to best achieve this multi-pronged, multi-national strategy is where the debate can get tangled.

Central America’s ability to attract U.S. financial aid is hampered by the increased appeal in the U.S. of zero-sum politics, i.e., the idea that mutual prosperity is not achievable because countries prosper at each other’s expense. Nonetheless, President Biden’s comprehensive four-year regional strategy for Central America creates a significant opening of the dialogue on how the U.S. can best address some of the root causes of Central American migration. Ultimately, badly needed job creating foreign investment and tourism will not be attracted to the area until Central American citizens feel they can live in peace and safety in their native countries. The objective of this two-day forum is to discuss ideas on how to get from here to there.

This Forum is presented by the Institute of the Americas and features Norma Torres (CA-35), Juan Vargas (CA-51) and Scott Peters (CA-52). They address corruption, security and economic factors in the region and what can be done.

Watch Challenges & Opportunities in Central America’s Northern Triangle Region.

Securing the Vote

Democracy withstood the assaults of misinformation during the contentious 2020 American Presidential election but did not emerge unscathed. The Center for Security in Politics at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy explores what it means to have free and fair elections from three perspectives: the international comparative aspect, lessons from battleground states, and election security.

With more than 100 democracies currently in the world, there are potentially many examples of how we might improve our election process in the future. The first panel brings together a distinguished group of experts to focus on election security practices in Latin America, South Asia, and West Africa. What might the United States be able to learn from what’s being done in these regions?

The panelists include Katherine Casey, Associate Professor of Political Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; Thomas Fujiwara, Associate Professor of Economics at Princeton University; Gianmarco León-Ciliottais, Associate Professor at Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Aila M. Matanock, Associate Professor of Political Science at the UC Berkeley; and moderator Susan Hyde, Professor of Political Science at the UC Berkeley. These scholars focus on election security practices in Brazil, India, and Sierra Leone while also citing examples from other countries.

Then, get firsthand accounts from a cybersecurity expert and election officials from Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. The panel of experts examined the 2020 election, current debates about voter suppression and what to expect in future electoral contests. States like Arizona and Michigan put in tremendous effort to educate voters and demonstrate the integrity of the process. They built robust election infrastructure, created resources to demystify the election process and invited people to participate in the process of keeping elections transparent.

The panelists include Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Secretary of State; Katie Hobbs, Arizona Secretary of State, Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania Attorney General; Matthew Masterson, Former Senior Cybersecurity Advisor at CISA, Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency; and moderator Janet Napolitano, Professor, Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley.

The third panel features domestic experts in election security practices. They focus their discussion on how we can advance our own election security practices by using the knowledge we’ve gained from our experiences in 2020 as well as looking at best practices in other countries to improve our system overall.

The panelists are Wayne Williams, former Colorado Secretary of State; Kammi Foote, Clerk Recorder and Registrar of Voters for Inyo County; Jennifer Morrell, former Colorado local election official and Partner at The Elections Group; Philip Stark, UC Berkeley Professor Statistics; and moderator Henry Brady, Dean, Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley.

Watch Free and Fair Elections: Lessons for the US from the Rest of the World.