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Biden Calls for Democracy, Not ‘Debt-Trap,’ in Americas Summit

US President Joe Biden called Friday for Latin America to choose democratic, transparent investment over “debt-trap diplomacy” as he welcomed 11 countries from a region where China has made inroads.

With free-trade deals falling out of favor in Washington, Biden is promoting the “Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity,” which focuses instead on encouraging business and reorienting supply chains away from China.

Welcoming leaders to the White House, Biden called for a region that is “secure, prosperous and democratic, from Canada’s northernmost reaches to the southern tip of Chile.”

In a veiled but clear criticism of China, Biden said that Latin America has “a real choice between debt-trap diplomacy and high-quality, transparent approaches to infrastructure and to development.”

China has free-trade agreements with four countries participating in Biden’s summit and has poured billions of dollars of investment into infrastructure in Latin America, but often through lending that nations must repay at unfavorable rates.

Biden said that the United States was rolling out a new investment platform that would support what he said could be billions of dollars in private-sector investment in “sustainable” infrastructure.

Biden said that the United States hoped to make the Western Hemisphere “the most economically competitive region in the world.”

“I think it’s totally within our reach,” he said.

Biden announced a program, based in Uruguay and also backed by Canada, to support start-up entrepreneurs in Latin America.

He also said that the United States with the Inter-American Development Bank would promote green bonds, along the lines of Ecuador’s initiative to sell debt to protect nature in the fragile Galapagos Islands.

“The United States is pursuing an approach I’ve called ‘friendshoring’: diversifying our supply chains across a wide range of trusted partners and allies,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told a meeting as part of the summit.

“We believe that APEP countries are well-positioned to take the actions needed to benefit from friendshoring in our region,” she said.

– Focus on Democratic allies –

The economic initiative prioritizes democracies, with the leaders of Barbados, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay joining at the White House.

Mexico and Panama are also part of the partnership but were represented at a lower level.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has a complicated relationship with the Biden administration, cooperating on the key US priority of keeping out migrants, mostly from Central America, but frequently criticizing US foreign policy.

Lopez Obrador refused to attend an Americas summit in Los Angeles last year that was a precursor to Friday’s gathering, protesting the exclusion of the leftist authoritarian-run Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo is a close US ally but could not attend due to a national holiday at home.

This year marks 200 years since the Monroe Doctrine, in which the United States declared Latin America to be in its sphere of influence with outside powers unwelcome.

In recent years China — seen by the United States as its foremost global competitor — has targeted Latin America as part of its global quest for natural resources, with 21 regional countries joining China’s decade-old infrastructure-spending blitz known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

The White House summit comes against the backdrop of the war between Israel and Hamas, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken skipping the gathering for another trip to the Middle East.

The war, and the US support for Israel in its relentless retaliation against a bloody Hamas assault, was not completely absent from the Latin America summit.

Chile’s left-leaning president, Gabriel Boric, met with Biden individually on Thursday and said that Israel’s response was “disproportionate.”

“International humanitarian law is being violated, and what is happening in the Gaza Strip is unacceptable,” Boric told reporters after meeting Biden.

Source : Zawya