China, US compete for dominance in trade with Latin America

World Today

The U.S. has been one of Latin America’s key trading partners for decades. But as Washington has endured highs-and-lows, China is gaining ground. Now the two countries are competing for dominance in trade with the region.

CGTN’s Joel Richards reports.

U.S. President Donald Trump did not travel to the Summit of the Americas.

According to aides, he stayed in Washington to monitor the situation in Syria. So it was Vice President Mike Pence who replaced him and led the U.S. delegation to show leadership in Latin America.

The Summit of the Americas taking place in Peru comes in the context of tension between China and the United States over trade and tariffs. These two countries, along with the European Union, are the most important trade partners for Latin America.

Ahead of the summit, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said the region has closer economic ties to the U.S. than China.

“The U.S. trades twice as much with the countries of the Americas as it does with China,” he said. “In fact, U.S. exports to our neighbors in this hemisphere are greater than exports to all of Asia combined.”

But China’s ambassador to Peru, Jia Guide, told Reuters news agency that the U.S. must not include this region in a trade dispute.

“It would also constitute contempt not just for China but also for Latin America,” said Jia.

China has rapidly become a key partner for Latin America, with trade and investment in agriculture, energy and transport.

“What is interesting about China, around the world, not only for analysts like me, is how fast it has happened,” said Gustavo Girado, director of the Chinese Studies Postgraduate course in a Buenos Aires University.

“In the mid-1990s, China wasn’t an important trade partner with anyone. Now, it is in the top three for trade for the 20 or so South and Central American countries, and is also one of the two most important investors in the region.”

In January 2015, China pledged $500 billion in trade and $250 billion in direct investment to the region over the next ten years. And while there may be increased export opportunities for Latin America if a trade dispute continues, if China or the United States’ economies slow, this region will also be affected.