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The Biden administration seeks a U.S.-led competitor for China’s Belt and Road international trade and public works program, with a top White House official scouting three Latin American countries next week for possible projects.
According to U.S. officials who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, the U.S. deputy national security adviser for international economics Daleep Singh is traveling to Colombia, Ecuador and Panama to talk with high-level officials and business leaders about infrastructure needs.
Among the officials, Singh plans to meet with are Colombian President Ivan Duque, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso and Panamanian Public Works Minister Rafael Sabonge.
Officials allege the White House seeks to engage projects with supposedly higher environmental and labor standards than those China is funding, with transparency regarding financial terms.
According to aides close to President Joe Biden, the Belt and Road initiative has transformed into a centerpiece of Beijing’s foreign policy strategy. U.S. officials say China has gained raw materials, trade links and geopolitical leverage from the program.
Biden and other G7 leaders earlier in 2021 discussed a coordinated infrastructure initiative for the Global South to counter China’s program, which the U.S. is calling Build Back Better for the World, echoing one of Biden’s major domestic legislative proposals.
#China | The “Belt and Road Initiative” helps to finance trillions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure projects in the developing world.
However, Biden and the AUKUS alliance try to undermine Beijing's achievement saying that it is a "scheme to trap poorer nations into debt ". pic.twitter.com/KIxsGUUFjU
Administration officials say that there are more than $40 trillion in infrastructure needs in the developing world through 2035 and that they plan to solicit ideas from local leaders before formally selecting several flagship projects in early 2022.
Officials named numerous possible projects, including solar power plants in India, water treatment facilities in El Salvador, pharmaceutical research and manufacturing plants in South Africa to produce COVID-19 therapies and vaccines, digital technology projects presenting alternatives to 5G wireless networks, digital links for Kenyan vendors, and investments in women-owned businesses in Brazil.
David Marchick, the chief operating officer at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, will travel along with Singh, officials said.