While Latin American countries focus on a new solution to narcotics trafficking and the admission of Cuba into the Summit of the Americas group, Obama focuses on trade.
US President Barack Obama sought to strengthen trade relations at the sixth two-day Summit of the Americas, which kicked off on Saturday in Cartagena, Columbia.
"I am going to be thinking about how we can get more business, access to more markets and more customers in the region," Obama said in Florida on Friday before traveling to the summit.
This year's theme is "Connecting the Americas: Partners for Prosperity."
Representatives from the US business community - Pepsico, Wal-Mart, Yahoo and Caterpillar - were also present.
Many of the over 30 Latin American countries attending the summit, however, wished to concentrate on finding a solution to drug trafficking and admitting Cuba as a member to the group.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is suffering from cancer, canceled his visit to the summit at the last minute and instead announced a visit to Cuba. Also missing from the meeting were Ecuador's President Rafael Correa as well as Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
Obama referred to tensions in the region as remnants of the past. He said some of the discussions that went on made him feel like being in a "time warp" - in a time of "gunboat diplomacy and Yankees and the Cold War and this and that."
"That's not the world we live in today," he said. "My hope is that we all recognize this enormous opportunity we've got."
Referring to the US veto to admitting Cuba into the club, he cited Cuba's poor human rights record as a reason for their exclusion. On the topic of narcotics trafficking and in response to Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina's suggestion for new strategies to combat trafficking, including decriminalization and regulation, Obama said legalization was not an option.
Instead, Obama emphasized the role of strong economies, the rule of law and reduced demand for drugs as better tools to contain the flow of drugs.
sb/ng (AP, dpa, AFP)