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In Latin America, Lee Finds Growing Influence of China

On a recent visit to several countries in Central and South America, Utah Sen. Mike Lee said he was struck by China’s growing influence in the region. In an interview with the Deseret News, he made the case that American policymakers should pay closer attention to what’s going on in their own hemisphere.

Lee said he saw signs in all the countries they visited — Panama, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil — of China’s growing influence. He called China’s attempts to establish influence in the Western Hemisphere a “significant” development. 

“We’ve not seen a major foreign power trying this hard to establish this many footholds in our own hemisphere all at once,” he said.  

A Council on Foreign Relations study says China is now South America’s largest trade partner and is the second largest partner after the U.S. for Latin America as a whole. China is also investing heavily in infrastructure in the region, as part of its “belt and road initiative,” with Chinese banks and companies financing and building infrastructure for a variety of sectors, including energy, agriculture, transportation and technology. 

Lee traveled to the region with a bipartisan group of senators, including Republican Sens. Mike Crapo of Idaho and John Cornyn of Texas, and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. The purpose of the trip was to investigate China’s growing influence in the region and to strengthen American ties with leadership in the region. 

Lee said he is concerned that the U.S. has historically focused on trade relationships outside of its own hemisphere, but he’d like that to change. 

“I think, insofar as we can establish good trade relationships with our Latin American partners, we can make ourselves less dependent on China,” he said. 

Source : Deseret News