United States President Joe Biden did not adopt China’s cooperative approach towards other governments when he hosted leaders of his country’s southern neighbours at the recent Summit of the Americas. Global solutions on issues such as climate change require nations working together to achieve a common goal. The same approach is necessary on a regional level for development, cross-boundary infrastructure and security. Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative and bilateral agreements have successfully employed the strategy in many places for mutual benefit. Washington considers Latin American and Caribbean countries in its sphere of influence. But ties suffered four years of neglect under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, and the summit, held on US soil for only the second time since 1994, was a chance to get relations back on track. Seeking common development and jointly working on challenges such as migration, economic disparity and climate change would have been a good start. Instead, though, Biden used the occasion to try to constrain China’s growing clout, furthering a strategy adopted when meeting visiting leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and during a trip to Japan and South Korea. Poor organisation and Biden’s insistence that only leaders sharing US democratic values could attend ensured the summit would falter. By excluding Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela from the only forum where the heads of the region’s countries can meet face to face, the possibility of cooperation and solutions for critical issues was blocked. Mexico’s leader boycotted in protest as did those from a number of other nations, among them Bolivia, El Salvador and Honduras. The plan for regional development Biden unveiled, “America’s Partnership for Economic Prosperity”, was similar to his “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” launched in Tokyo. Aimed at countering China’s growing influence, the agreements seek to create alliances to coordinate supply chains, digital frameworks and clean energy. But the appeal for countries that have not already signed free-trade deals with Washington will be limited. China outstrips the US when it comes to trade and investment in the region; it is the top trading partner for South America’s biggest economies, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru, which are major global suppliers of soy, corn, copper and lithium. Messy Summit of the Americas highlights contrast in US, China hosting styles China’s summitry and the belt and road involve inclusiveness and working together for the common good. Biden’s approach of excluding and dividing has Washington most in mind. That explains why the summit he hosted was widely perceived as a failure. Only by joining forces on equal terms can there be better development and resolved challenges.