In creating an economic strategy, President Biden and his administration are stuck between conflicting policy goals of relocating industrial supply chains back to the United States and of reducing migration from Central America, where so many of these factories are located.
The two issues are rarely linked in policy debates. But the factories in Central America employ over 500,000 workers, including 160,000 in Honduras and over 55,000 in El Salvador, producing everything from clothes to electronic parts and medical devices. These jobs provide sustenance to more than two million family members. Without these opportunities, they might join all the mothers and children who are streaming toward our southern border in high numbers.
If just another veiled version of economic protectionism, the American Jobs Plan may hurt Central American economies heavily dependent on trade and foreign investment, and it could worsen the migration crisis. However, there is a way to strengthen our manufacturing sector while bolstering economic development for Central America.
Biden has asked for $20 billion to build manufacturing innovation hubs. Meanwhile, his infrastructure agenda allocates $50 billion to strengthen supply chains for critical products. Imagine if some of these hubs were located in Central America and the Caribbean, another major source of migrants in countries such as Honduras and Guatemala, or the turbulent border region between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Other options could include Jamaica, which already hosts call centers and information technology services, and the northern coast of Colombia.
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