Bloomberg / Washington
The Biden administration is considering a US-led competitor for China’s Belt and Road international trade and public works program, and a top White House official will scout Latin America next week for possible projects.
Daleep Singh, the US deputy national security adviser for international economics, is travelling to Colombia, Ecuador and Panama to talk with high-level officials, business leaders and civic activists about infrastructure needs, according to US officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso and Panamanian Public Works Minister Rafael Sabonge are among the officials Singh plans to meet.
The White House wants to engage in projects with higher environmental and labour standards than those China is funding, with full transparency for the financial terms, the officials said.
The Belt and Road initiative has transformed from what was once regarded in the US as a series of unconnected infrastructure projects into a centrepiece of Beijing’s foreign policy strategy, aides to President Joe Biden said. China has gained raw materials, trade links and geopolitical leverage from the program, they added.
Biden and other Group of Seven leaders earlier this year discussed a coordinated infrastructure initiative for developing countries to counter China’s programme. In the White House, the new project is known as Build Back Better for the World, echoing one of Biden’s key domestic legislative proposals.
Across the developing world, there are more than $40tn in infrastructure needs through 2035, administration officials said. US officials plan to first solicit ideas from local leaders before formally selecting several flagship projects early next year, aides said.
They rattled off a list of examples of possible projects, including solar power plants in India, water treatment facilities in El Salvador, pharmaceutical research and manufacturing in South Africa that could produce Covid-19 therapies or vaccines, digital technology projects that might result in an alternative to 5G wireless networks, digital links for Kenyan farmers and vendors, or investments in women-owned businesses in Brazil.
Officials travelling with Singh will include David Marchick, the chief operating officer at the US International Development Finance Corporation.
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