United States (US) representative Mark Green has warned Barbados and other Caribbean countries that accepting investment opportunities from economic powerhouse China would come at a price.
He issued the warning on Thursday as he promised a deepening of security links between the US and the region to transform island economies.
Green’s advice came amidst rising tensions between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as a Beijing invasion of Taiwan looms.
It also came against the background of Chinese investment and aid here. Almost completed is the multi-million-dollar Wyndham Grand Hotel at Sam Lord’s Castle project, which is being constructed by a Chinese firm with part funding from that nation; while Barbados is also looking to the East Asian nation for grant funding to redevelop the National Stadium.
“I don’t blame countries for partnering with China. There are countries that have economic needs, opportunity needs, and we understand. But understand this – investment from China comes with a price,” Green said, although not mentioning any specific funding from China.
“The Chinese communist party harbours aggressive strategic ambitions and they start with dislodging the United States and creating an international world order that serves their interest. Through industrial espionage, forced technology transfer, extensive intellectual property theft, China and its network of state-sponsored enterprises have been able to corner the market on key industries,” he further alleged.
Green was addressing the opening of the inaugural investment summit of venture capital firm Upturn Funds Caribbean at the Barbados Hilton Resort.
The three-day event is designed to attract scores of potential investors from around the globe and more than US$5 billion in investment across a range of sectors.
Green said it was his mission to reorient US foreign policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean and reverse some of the “damages” that were done as a result of America’s “aloofness towards the western hemisphere”, which he said had created a vacuum that was rapidly filled by China and Russia.
He suggested that the Caribbean should look more to the US for major investments, as he accused the two communist nations of being self-serving.
“Unlike the United States, which seeks mutual and beneficial relationships, Russia and China care only about themselves.
“What’s good for the United States is good for the Caribbean and what’s good for the Caribbean is good for the United States. Unfortunately, for too long, US foreign policy has largely ignored our neighbours in the western hemisphere, particularly the Caribbean, and we have seen the detrimental effects of that detachment – from China’s debt-trap diplomacy to Russia’s extensive disinformation campaigns . . . ,” Green asserted.
He said re-establishing the relationship between the US and the Caribbean was important, but noted that a chronic shortage of human resources at the US State Department has impacted diplomatic relations over the years.
However, the Republican, who represents a district in the state of Tennessee, announced that the US Congress would be pressing ahead with a Western Hemisphere Nearshoring Act that would facilitate major economic and development transformation for the Caribbean, while addressing issues relating to migration.
Singling out the area of security in which, he said, his country was already working closely with the Caribbean, Green said other elements of the reorientation within the region include establishing new free trade agreements, harmonising existing agreements, and establishing nearshoring, which he said could result in massive economic growth for Barbados.
“According to estimates by the Inter-American Development Bank, nearshoring could add an annual US$78 billion in additional exports of goods and services in Latin America and the Caribbean in the near to medium term . . . . Such a huge influx of capital from nearshoring would mean massive growth if concentrated in countries like Barbados,” he said.
Explaining nearshoring, Green said it was “basically bringing jobs and industry back to our hemisphere, particularly manufacturing from China, a regime with an egregious human rights abuse system”.
“Nearshoring holds the promise of laying the foundation for new relations between the US and the Caribbean, and with this legislation we can foster stronger commercial ties while enabling the dynamic development of diverse industrial economies and raising the standard of living for people living in poverty,” he said.
“As we face the challenge of bringing back manufacturing to the western hemisphere, the United States must look to empower our neighbours for our mutual benefit and long-term prosperity.”
The US Congressman stressed, though, that having a closer partnership between the US and the region would require Caribbean governments to create a more enabling environment for the private sector to lead economic growth.
“I say this from experience . . . . If governments want to do this we have got to create a business-friendly environment and let the private sector compete and operate without undue burden and restrictions,” he urged.
“This means increasing privatisation, cutting taxes and decreasing unnecessary regulations. It also means welcoming foreign investment, and I hope that will be from the United States . . . . Russia and China do not have our best interest at heart, but America seeks a mutually beneficial partnership where we work together diplomatically, economically and in security partnerships.”