Amid Tensions With U.S., China Is Solidifying Relationships in Latin America

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<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="China's decadeslong economic has fueled its growing presence around the world, funding programs and infrastructure projects across Asia, Africa and into Latin America. Trade between China and Latin America reached a reported $306 billion in 2018, a dramatic increase from the $12 billion figure in 2000. And while China’s foreign and direct investment is slowing from previous years, Beijing is still active in the region.” data-reactid=”11″>China’s decadeslong economic has fueled its growing presence around the world, funding programs and infrastructure projects across Asia, Africa and into Latin America. Trade between China and Latin America reached a reported $306 billion in 2018, a dramatic increase from the $12 billion figure in 2000. And while China’s foreign and direct investment is slowing from previous years, Beijing is still active in the region.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="That activity has heightened already fraught tensions between the United States and China over trade. Factor in the White House seeking to build walls and reduce foreign aid to Latin America and it becomes clear that Central and South American leaders need to craft trade strategies that balance their country’s relations with both Washington and Beijing, regional experts say.” data-reactid=”12″>That activity has heightened already fraught tensions between the United States and China over trade. Factor in the White House seeking to build walls and reduce foreign aid to Latin America and it becomes clear that Central and South American leaders need to craft trade strategies that balance their country’s relations with both Washington and Beijing, regional experts say.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Latin America's relationship with China is still evolving, says Isabel de Saint Malo, former vice president and foreign minister of Panama. "It has moved from a relationship of China looking mainly for raw materials in the region to a China that is currently more and more present in terms of investment and infrastructure," says de Saint Malo, who spoke at this week’s annual CAF conference at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C. "This is not random, but a result of a clear objective from China who wants to interact globally and become a developed country."” data-reactid=”13″>Latin America’s relationship with China is still evolving, says Isabel de Saint Malo, former vice president and foreign minister of Panama. “It has moved from a relationship of China looking mainly for raw materials in the region to a China that is currently more and more present in terms of investment and infrastructure,” says de Saint Malo, who spoke at this week’s annual CAF conference at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C. “This is not random, but a result of a clear objective from China who wants to interact globally and become a developed country.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Elsewhere in the region, China is now playing the primary trade role that the U.S. did, says Rosa Ng, former trade representative for the Dominican Republic. "We had a vacuum left from our main trade partner who has always been the United States and this is now filled by the Chinese because of their concrete needs and requirements."” data-reactid=”14″>Elsewhere in the region, China is now playing the primary trade role that the U.S. did, says Rosa Ng, former trade representative for the Dominican Republic. “We had a vacuum left from our main trade partner who has always been the United States and this is now filled by the Chinese because of their concrete needs and requirements.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="In the early days of the U.S.-China trade war, economies such as Chile, Argentina or Brazil saw specific industries receive a boost from China. Last year, Brazil reported record volumes of soybeans sent to China as Beijing decreased the amount of soybean it imported from the U.S. In August, Reuters reported that China offered to dredge parts of the Parana River in Argentina, the country’s main cargo superhighway. In Venezuela, Beijing continues to back Nicolás Maduro’s government.” data-reactid=”15″>In the early days of the U.S.-China trade war, economies such as Chile, Argentina or Brazil saw specific industries receive a boost from China. Last year, Brazil reported record volumes of soybeans sent to China as Beijing decreased the amount of soybean it imported from the U.S. In August, Reuters reported that China offered to dredge parts of the Parana River in Argentina, the country’s main cargo superhighway. In Venezuela, Beijing continues to back Nicolás Maduro’s government.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="[MORE: These Countries Are the Winners of the China-U.S. Trade War]” data-reactid=”16″>[MORE: These Countries Are the Winners of the China-U.S. Trade War]

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Any changes in China's economic and political expansion into Latin America won't be due to pressure from Washington, says Enrique Dussel Peters, director of Center for Chinese-Mexican Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, also speaking at the CAF conference.” data-reactid=”17″>Any changes in China’s economic and political expansion into Latin America won’t be due to pressure from Washington, says Enrique Dussel Peters, director of Center for Chinese-Mexican Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, also speaking at the CAF conference.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content=""There is still this idea that the U.S. can unilaterally impose new conditions," he says. "This, unfortunately, is the U.S. on the global arena in the 1950s and 60s, not of 2019."” data-reactid=”18″>”There is still this idea that the U.S. can unilaterally impose new conditions,” he says. “This, unfortunately, is the U.S. on the global arena in the 1950s and 60s, not of 2019.”

The U.S. and other countries must acknowledge that more economic draws more economic presence from China, adds de Saint Malo of Panama. “And with presence comes influence,” she says. “It’s not a matter of choosing (between the U.S. and China). It’s a matter of understanding where the complement and sharing of vision is or where there is not, and defining the (relevance) for your own country.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Sintia Radu covers international affairs and technology for U.S. News &amp; World Report. You can follow her on Twitter @sintiaradu and send her suggestions and ideas at sradu@usnews.com.” data-reactid=”20″>Sintia Radu covers international affairs and technology for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter @sintiaradu and send her suggestions and ideas at sradu@usnews.com.