Home / Articles / America Re-engages Africa and Latin America in a Reimagined Atlantic
The United States is forging a new transatlantic partnership emphasizing Africa and Latin America, shifting its focus from the traditional US-Europe axis. This aims to address shared economic challenges and opportunities in the Atlantic basin, like sustainable ocean economy and resource management.
The Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation is not a standalone strategy but a placeholder framework for engagement with Africa and Latin America. It reflects a humbled US engagement with the two continents overshadowed by the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East.
The Atlantic Partnership is part of a wider shift in US foreign policy, including initiatives like IMEC (India-Middle East-Europe Corridor), Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), and the I2U2 (India-Israel-UAE-USA). This shift prioritizes national security alongside economic interests and embraces minilateral blocs against emerging rivals like China and Russia. It marks a move away from the pure market-driven Washington Consensus of the past.
Building on its new global economic initiatives, such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor (IMEC), the United States, alongside thirty-one nations, launched the Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation, a transcontinental initiative, at the UN General Assembly in September.The Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation gathers nations across Europe, Africa, and the Americas, forging a new path in transatlantic cooperation. Economic powerhouses like Brazil, the United Kingdom, and the United States stand alongside regional leaders like Ghana, Nigeria, and Argentina, and stable democracies like Canada share the table with strategic gateway countries like Morocco and the Netherlands. This partnership ushers in a new era of transatlantic cooperation, venturing beyond the traditional US-Europe axis. It tackles broader economic—and, by extension, geopolitical—challenges facing the Atlantic basin, demanding a more integrated North-South approach.
According to the White House announcement on the Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation:
Coastal Atlantic countries share direct and interconnected interests in the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic Ocean is the world’s most heavily traveled ocean with critical trade routes and global energy reserves. The World Bank estimates that the ocean contributes one-and-a-half trillion dollars annually to the global economy—and expects this figure to double by 2030. Sustainable ocean economy sectors are estimated to generate almost fifty million jobs in Africa and to contribute twenty-one billion dollars to Latin American GDP. Meanwhile, challenges like illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing, natural disasters, and illicit trafficking threaten this economy. We recognize that no country alone can solve the cross-boundary challenges in the Atlantic region or fully address the opportunities before us.
The emphasis on the Atlantic’s benefits for Africa and Latin America anchors a humbled US engagement strategy with these continents, previously neglected in favor of a dominant American focus on the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East. While the Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation isn’t a standalone strategy for Latin America and Africa, it serves as a temporary framework while Washington develops a cohesive vision for their integration in a US grand strategy in an era of great power competition.
Furthermore, the White House, says in its statement, “It is also the first time that so many Atlantic countries have come together to establish a forum through which we can work together on a more regular basis and to lay down, via the Declaration, a set of shared principles for the Atlantic region, such as a commitment to an open Atlantic free from interference, coercion, or aggressive action.” The language used in describing the Atlantic Partnership echoes President Joe Biden’s strategic vision for the Indo-Pacific, stating at the Quad summit: “The future of our nations—and the world—hinges on a free and open Indo-Pacific, thriving and enduring for decades to come.”
The Partnership brings together the nations of Latin America and Africa as active participants in shaping the region’s future. The North-South framing of the Atlantic Basin isn’t entirely unprecedented in global geopolitics. It echoes the strategic logic of Shinzo Abe’s expansion of the Asia-Pacific concept to the Indo-Pacific, a move conceptually aimed at balancing China’s influence through India’s inclusion. At least, this is the theory of the case in Tokyo and Washington and it is yet to be tested. Moreover, West Asia is a new term gaining traction in the Middle East, emphasizing transregional security and economic interconnectedness with South Asia. Notably, increasing integration across the broader Asian rimland points towards a more overarching Asian order.
Washington’s new Atlantic initiative shouldn’t be seen as a separate initiative but a new add-on to the existing roster of minilateral formats that the United States has established recently, such as the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor (IMEC) announced during the G20 summit, illustrating a significant strategic shift in US foreign policy. The IMEC, I2U2, Atlantic Partnership, and IPEF are not mere economic initiatives; they represent a calculated recalibration of American statecraft. Globalization’s cracks become visible in the shaky grounds of the Washington Consensus, which was once seen as a blueprint for prosperity in a post-World War economic order. Washington, with a dose of Kissingerian realism, is adjusting its economic discourse. Market access loses its shine in a world of rising nationalism and broken supply chains. Simply put, granting market access to junior trade partners to gain their geopolitical alignment, is increasingly perceived as hurting the American working class and increasingly less appealing politically to the American voters. Furthermore, industrial policy, once a Cold War relic, has resurfaced, draped not in ideology but in the cloak of national security. Economic blocs, reminiscent of Henry Kissinger’s spheres of influence, solidify against a revisionist Russia and rising China.
The Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation is not a triumph of idealism, but a calculated adjustment to US engagement strategy with the rest of the world that ensures America’s favorable position in an emerging multipolar world order.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan organization that seeks to publish well-argued, policy-oriented articles on American foreign policy and national security priorities.