AUSTIN, Texas, (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Latin American countries yesterday against excessive reliance on economic ties with China, saying the region did not need new imperial powers. Tillerson, in a speech ahead of a visit to Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Colombia and Jamaica, also said Russia’s growing presence in the region was “alarming as well.”
“Today China is getting a foothold in Latin America. It is using economic statecraft to pull the region into its orbit; the question is at what price,” Tillerson said at the University of Texas at Austin en route to Mexico.
Tillerson said China was now the largest trading partner with Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Peru and said strong institutions and accountable governments were needed to secure sovereignty against “potential predatory actors” arriving in their region.
“While this trade has brought benefits, the unfair trading practices used by many Chinese have also harmed those countries’ manufacturing sectors, generating unemployment and lowering wages for workers,” the U.S. Secretary of State said.
“Latin America does not need new imperial powers that seek only to benefit their own people,” he said. “China’s state-led model of development is reminiscent of the past. It doesn’t have to be this hemisphere’s future.”
Tillerson said Russia had continued to sell arms and military equipment to unfriendly governments that “do not share or respect democratic values.”
“Our region must be diligent to guard against far-away powers that do not reflect the fundamental values shared in this region,” he said.
“The United States stands in vivid contrast. We do not seek short term deals with lop-sided returns,” Tillerson said.