While the U.S. continues to maintain being the primary trading partner with Central American and Caribbean neighbors, heightened Chinese economic engagement with those neighbors concerns several Congressional members. Over a dozen representatives sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai asking for immediate attention to the growing influence of the Chinese Communist Party in both Latin America and the Caribbean trade and economic development.
China has now surpassed the United States and is the largest non-continental trading partner for 54% of South America. This is a substantial increase from 20 years ago when China had few trade agreements in the region and little economic footprint.
China is already beginning to discuss new trade agreements with South American countries. For example, Ecuador and China hope to have a free trade agreement as early as March 2022, and Uruguay even sooner, possibly by the end of the year.
This heightened economic activity arrives parallel to China’s Belt & Road Initiative, which is the Chinese Communist Party’s long-term commitment to investing in large-scale infrastructure projects all over the world, as well as CCP-sponsored companies working to dominate the 5G and public security space. Since 2019, China agreed to invest in several major infrastructure projects in El Salvador, including a soccer stadium and a water treatment plant. In 2007, China financed a soccer stadium in Costa Rica.
“The rising threat of CCP espionage and intellectual property theft has always been cause for concern, and the Biden administration can no longer take for granted its sphere of influence – even within our borders,” the Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., shared in a statement.
The letter adds, “Economic prosperity and solidified trading relationships is slowing becoming a matter of national security.”
The letter notes that officials from countries such as Ecuador, Uruguay, Colombia, Paraguay, Guatemala and others have stated that they wish to continue strong trading relationships with the U.S.
“Now is the time to turn dialogue into action. We can no longer waste time trying to fix this situation solely diplomatically,” the members write. “China has the money, influence and strategy to infiltrate the Western Hemisphere – it is only a matter of time before the checks become too large to turn down.”
The letter continues, “We believe that it is of the highest priority for the U.S. to keep its relationships strong with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere. Before long, China will be significantly positioned to completely dominate Western Hemisphere economics, as China is already the top trading partner for practically all of Asia, Oceania, Eastern Europe, Africa and, as stated, most of South America.”
Signing the letter besides Rick Crawford includes Reps. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, John Katko, R-N.Y., Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., Mark Green, R-Tenn., Chris Stewart, R-Utah, Randy Weber, R-Texas, Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., Peter Meijer, R-Mich., Michael Guest, R-Miss., Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and William Timmons, R-S.C.