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Biden pledges at Americas summit an alternative to Chinese-led infrastructure and development loans

United States President Joe Biden on Friday welcomed government leaders from countries across the Americas to an economic summit by pledging to increase US investment in the region in part to counter China’s influence.

The US president did not specifically mention China in his opening remarks at the first Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity Leaders’ Summit. But Biden openly alluded to the country that has emerged as a chief geopolitical competitor to the United States that has offered development loans to countries in the Western Hemisphere.

“We want to make sure that our closest neighbours know they have a real choice between debt trap diplomacy and high quality, transparent approaches to infrastructure and to development,” Biden said. “By combining the commitment of the United States government to mitigate investment risk with the agility of private sector financing, we believe we can deliver gains for workers and families throughout the region.”

Among the other topics being discussed at the summit are migration, supply chains and efforts geared toward environmental sustainability.

Along with Biden, officials from Barbados Canada, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay and Panama attended summit events.

Friday’s event was announced last year at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. The focus on trade comes as competition has intensified between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies. Biden, a Democrat, has provided government incentives to build US infrastructure and for companies to construct new factories. But after the coronavirus pandemic disrupted manufacturing and global shipping, there has also been an effort to diversify trade and reduce dependence on Chinese manufacturing.

In 2022, the US exported US$1.2 trillion worth of goods and services to other countries in the Western Hemisphere, according to the US Trade Representative. It also imported US$1.2 trillion in goods and services from those countries. But the majority of that trade was with Canada and Mexico.

By contrast, the US imported US$562.9 billion worth of goods and services from China last year.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen outlined the Biden administration’s goals in a Thursday speech at the Inter-American Development Bank. The US wants to diversify supply chains with “trusted partners and allies,” a strategy that she said had “tremendous potential benefits for fuelling growth in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Yellen, who regularly talks about her friendshoring strategy for increasing supply chain resilience by working primarily with friendly nations as opposed to geopolitical rivals like China, laid out her vision of new US investment in South America at the development bank.

The Inter-American Development Bank, which is the biggest multilateral lender to Latin America, would support new projects through grants, lending and new programs. The US is the bank’s largest shareholder, with 30 per cent of voting rights.

Increasingly, policymakers in the US have expressed concern about China’s influence at the bank. While the Asian superpower holds less than 0.1 per cent voting rights, it holds large economic stakes in some of the 48 member countries of the bank.


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