Updates include Kamala Harris’ visit to the Dream Big Children’s Center.
President Joe Biden arrived in Los Angeles Wednesday as the Summit of the Americas began its formal program of discussions among leaders from Western Hemisphere nations addressing issues ranging from immigration to climate change to COVID.
The summit will continue through Friday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, with Biden serving as host of the event aimed at generating hemispheric consensus on critical issues facing the nations.
Events formally began Wednesday with a Ministerial Meeting of the Summit Implementation Review Group, chaired by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Biden and first lady Jill Biden are set to host the summit’s inaugural ceremony Wednesday evening at the Microsoft Theater, just north of the Convention Center.
Biden arrived aboard Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport shortly after 1:30 p.m. and was greeted by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom. Biden then boarded a helicopter toward Dodger Stadium, ultimately bound for Hollywood to tape an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” which is filmed at the El Capitan Theatre complex on Hollywood Boulevard. He will then head downtown for a 4 p.m. meet-and-greet with summit delegates at the Microsoft Theater ahead of the 5:15 p.m. inaugural ceremony, according to The White House.
Biden’s exact travel plans were not released, but motorists between Hollywood and downtown should anticipate possible rolling closures to accommodate a presidential motorcade.
Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been in the Los Angeles area since Friday, made multiple appearances Wednesday at summit-related events. She spoke downtown at the CEO Summit — a gathering of business leaders — to discuss efforts at addressing the root causes of migration, highlighting private investments she announced earlier in the week aimed at improving economic outcomes in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
She later headed to Monrovia to visit the Dream Big Children’s Center to highlight the administration’s work to address inflation and support economic recovery for small businesses.
A senior administration official told reporters this week the summit “is an opportunity for us to come together as a hemisphere to tackle some of the top concerns of the people in the region, including obtaining and sustaining economic prosperity, climate change, the migration crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Five formal documents will be released during the summit, “reflecting an ambitious hemispheric consensus on everything from support for civil society to promoting digital connectivity,” the official said.
During Wednesday’s opening ceremony, Biden will formally announce the “Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity,” a five-pronged effort to bolster regional economies by building on free-trade agreements and addressing “inequality and lack of economic opportunity and equity,” according to the administration’s official.
Among the partnership’s goals are improvements in international supply chains, the creation of clean-energy jobs, and efforts to ensure “sustainable and inclusive trade.”
Also during the summit, Biden will announce more than $300 million in regional assistance to combat food insecurity, along with health initiatives aimed at preparing for future pandemics and a partnership with the Caribbean community to address climate issues. On Friday, the final day of the summit, Biden and other leaders are expected to sign the “Los Angeles Declaration on Migration,” which the administration official described as a pact to pursue a “comprehensive” approach to addressing the crisis.
“The president is going to use the Summit of the Americas to align regional leaders, the private sector, and civil society behind this new and ambitious agenda, starting with the economic agenda for the region,” the administration official said.
The official noted that Mexico is among the nations expected to sign the declaration, despite the news this week that Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will not be attending the gathering. He pulled out of the event in response to the Biden administration’s decision declining to invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to the conference. Mexico, however, will still be represented at the event.
The exclusion of the three nations has led to questions about the legitimacy of the event overall, and increased the presence of critics. Opponents of the gathering’s tenor are planning a meeting of their own, dubbed the People’s Summit for Democracy, which will be at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.
Among those set to speak at the event are Melina Abdullah of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, political activist/philosopher Cornel West, Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar López Rivera, Honduran Indigenous leader Bertha Zúniga and Indian historian Vijay Prashad.
Organizers of the event contend the Summit of the Americas “has long been an arena to push U.S. economic and political interests in Latin America and the Caribbean, without regard for the people of our shared continent.”
“When a powerful country imposes what it claims is `democracy’ on other countries, it demeans the idea of democracy and crushes the possibility of any real democracy from taking root,” according to the group’s website. “Such a `democracy’ — imposed by war or regime change — is destructive to the potential of the people and to a planet facing the threat of ecological devastation. No one country must be allowed to dominate others and no countries must be permitted to benefit economically and socially at the cost of the benefit of all peoples.”
Various protests are also planned around the actual summit, with Los Angeles-area Republicans planning to hold a rally outside the Sheraton Grand Hotel to protest rising gas prices and inflation. Meanwhile, a group of climate activists plan to drop a banner from the Seventh Street overpass of the Harbor (110) Freeway to protest what they call the Biden administration’s reliance on fossil fuels, and demanding an end to fossil fuel drilling on federal lands.
The Los Angeles gathering for the Summit of the Americas is the first time a U.S. city has hosted the event since 1994, when the inaugural conference was in Miami. Representatives from the Western Hemisphere began arriving Monday. The summit convenes once every three or four years.
The summit, organized by the White House and the U.S. Department of State, will continue through Friday with a focus on “Building a Sustainable, Resilient and Equitable Future” in the Americas.
According to the U.S. State Department, the meeting promotes regional cooperation and helps address the region’s most pressing issues, including increasing economic competitiveness, enhancing access to technology, countering trafficking and promoting democracy and human rights throughout the Americas.
During the most recent summit — which was in Peru in 2018 — the region’s leaders committed to fighting corruption, according to the U.S. State Department.
In conjunction with the summit, three forums were also planned in downtown Los Angeles, including the Young Americas Forum hosted by the Young Americas Business Trust. The gathering is designed for attendees aged 18 to 34, allowing them to “connect with international leaders in an ecosystem that stimulates the spirit of cooperation for a resilient, sustainable future and equitable, inclusive opportunities for the Americas.”
Meanwhile, the CEO Summit hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. State Department began at the InterContinental Hotel on Tuesday. The three-day event will feature business leaders from summit nations discussing “innovative solutions that benefit us all.”
Participants are expected to discuss topics including trade, health economies, digital transformation, and strengthening the inclusion of small businesses in trade and supply chains. Among those set to participate over the three-day span is Mayor Eric Garcetti, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
The Civil Society Forum connected to the summit began Monday at the Sheraton Grand Hotel and will continue through Wednesday. That event is billed as a forum for “direct engagement between leaders and independent civil society representatives from all of the countries of the Americas.” It will “elevate voices from across the hemisphere focused on a wide range of issues yet together committed to ensuring democracy delivers for the people of our hemisphere.”
An updated version of this article can be found here.