Sec. of State Rex Tillerson outlines Latin America policy priorities at UT Austin


AUSTIN (KXAN/AP) — The University of Texas at Austin hosted alumnus and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Thursday for a speech ahead of his five-country trip to Latin America.

Tillerson discussed the Trump Administration’s Western Hemisphere policy priorities, including democratization and human rights, economic growth and security issues in the region The event, which was held in the Blanton Auditorium, is co-hosted by the Clements Center for National Security and the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law. Tickets were sold out to the show.

Tillerson warned countries in the Western Hemisphere to beware of Chinese investment, saying it is reminiscent of European colonialism. He also derided Russia for selling weaponry to authoritarian governments in the region.

“Those issues are overwhelmed by questions of immigration and the controversy surrounding immigration,” said Dr. Jeremi Suri, professor of history and public affairs at the university. “One of the key aims the Secretary of State will have will be to show that the United States has a policy that will go beyond immigration — that addresses issues of drug control, but also issues about trade, issues regarding security, democratic development in the Western Hemisphere.”

While immigration is a big topic, so are economic partnerships. Because the U.S. economy is very intertwined with Latin America, changes in the area can affect the U.S and consumers, according to Will Inboden, a UT professor and the Clement Center for National Security executive director.

“The tomatoes, the bananas, the oranges that you’re picking up at the daily grocery store — you may just be thinking about ‘is it bruised or not, and how much does it cost and is my 3-year-old going to eat it for lunch,’ but that particular piece of fruit represents very complex economic and foreign policies and interrelationships that our country has with other countries,” Inboden said.

After his speech, Tillerson will head to Mexico City, Mexico. He then travels to Argentina, Peru, Colombia and wraps up his travels in Jamaica on Feb. 7.

Tillerson received a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the university in 1975 and worked his way up the leadership chain at ExxonMobil.

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