By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Stephanie Bowers said yesterday leaders should choose “high-quality, transparent, and inclusive foreign investment” and ensure they are getting the best deal for their respective citizens in the long-term.
Her comments came in response to a scathing statement from her counterpart at the Chinese Embassy in Nassau and as Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis and other regional leaders will meet with US President Donald Trump at his Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida today.
According to a White House statement issued earlier this week, President Trump is looking to counter China’s “predatory economic practices” in the region.
On Wednesday, Chinese Chargé d’Affaires Haigang Yin accused the US government of trying to “disintegrate solidarity and cooperation between China and other developing countries.”
He also slammed the US’ “predatory” label placed on China’s activities in the Caribbean, dismissing it as completely baseless, unreasonable and contradictory to the facts.
In her response yesterday, Ms Bowers said: “Economic engagement should meet international best practices in terms of transparency, debt sustainability and the needs and concerns of local communities.
“We encourage all leaders to choose high-quality, transparent, and inclusive foreign investment, and we want to ensure development financing does not result in unsustainable debt. When evaluating types of partnerships and investment relationships, leaders must ensure they are getting the best deal for their country and their people over the long term.”
In 2018, the US State Department was warned that an independent study found China’s “debt book diplomacy” uses “strategic debts to gain political leverage with economically vulnerable countries across the Asia-Pacific region,” according to the UK Guardian.
Last year, the British daily reported: “The academic report, from graduate students of the Harvard Kennedy school of policy analysis, was independently prepared for the State Department to view and assessed the impact of China’s strategy on the influence of the US in the region.
“The paper identifies 16 ‘targets’ of China’s tactic of extending hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to countries that can’t afford to pay them, and then strategically leveraging the debt.
“It said while Chinese infrastructure investment in developing countries wasn’t ‘inherently’ against US or global interests, it became problematic when China’s use of its leverage ran counter to US interests, or if the US had strategic interests in a country which had its domestic stability undermined by unsustainable debt,” the UK Guardian reported.
China has financed or invested in developments across the region and around the world.
However, China has asserted that it has, through good cooperation with Caribbean countries under its Belt and Road Initiative, cultivated mutually beneficial outcomes for all sides.
“…China-Caribbean cooperation has created a large number of local jobs and strongly boosted the host country’s development and improved people’s livelihood,” Mr Yin noted on Wednesday.
The most recent comments from the US now stand as the latest swipe in a long-line of jabs between the two global superpowers amid a trade dispute.
The Tribune noted on Wednesday that despite several rounds of negotiations, China and the US have not been able to come to a resolution on how to end the dispute, leaving small developing states dependent on their goods and services caught in the crosshairs.
Many Bahamians across social media have raised concerns with Mr Yin’s comments and what it could mean for bilateral relations with both countries.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement yesterday, noting Mr Yin’s comments, however it did not address his remarks directly.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken note of the comments attributed to Haigang Yin, charge d’affaires of the Embassy of The People’s Republic China in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, published in today’s Nassau Guardian and The Tribune newspapers.
“The Bahamas enjoys longstanding and excellent diplomatic and trade relations with both the United States and The People’s Republic of China.
“Diplomatic relations were established with the United States in 1973 and with The People’s Republic of China in 1997, and the Government of the Bahamas fully anticipates that it will continue to enjoy cordial and productive relations with both countries in the future,” the statement read in full.
When he meets them today, President Trump is also expected to discuss potential opportunities for energy investment and security cooperation with regional leaders.
“The president looks forward to working with countries in the region to strengthen our security cooperation and counter China’s predatory economic practices. The president will use this meeting as an opportunity to thank these countries for their support for peace and democracy in Venezuela. The United States remains a good friend to the Caribbean and seeks to build on a proud legacy as the region’s partner of choice,” the White House noted earlier this week.