United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Panama last week, where he met with President Juan Carlos Varela before visiting the US Embassy. During his trip, the Secretary of State reiterated the “threat” posed by China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the region, echoing a warning that his predecessor, former United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, made preceding his departure for a trip through the region.
Under President Donald Trump, United States policy in Latin America reflects the economic protectionism and diplomatic unilateralism that’s characterized so much of the White House’s foreign policy since 2016. Indeed, while Secretary Pompeo’s warnings of “debt traps” are valid, it will require much more than rhetorical admonitions to retain sufficient influence in the region to counter China.
“When they show up with deals that seem to be too good to be true it’s often the case that they, in fact, are,” he said on Thursday in Mexico City, according to comments posted on the US Department of State’s website.
In an editorial on Monday, the state-run China Daily newspaper said Pompeo’s comments were “ignorant and malicious” and criticism that its ambitions Belt and Roadinfrastructure initiative was creating debt traps in other countries was false.
President Xi Jinping has been pushing the plan to expand trade corridors along a modern-day Silk Road linking Asia, Europe and Africa, pumping credit into building roads, railways and ports in a trillion-dollar infrastructure initiative.
“The ‘creditor imperialism’ fallacy is, in essence, a deliberate attempt by India and Western countries to denigrate the Belt and Road Initiative, which exhibits their envy of the initial fruits the initiative has produced,” the editorial said.“