‘US disregarded Latin America, so it looked to China for partners’
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Latin America to be wary of Chinese attempts to invest heavily in their countries and make their economy dependent on Beijing. He also mentioned “unfair trading practices” that China allegedly uses to trap smaller states.
Speaking at the University of Texas at Austin right before his trip to Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Colombia and Jamaica Tillerson said that “today China is getting a foothold in Latin America.” He added that “it is using economic statecraft to pull the region into its orbit.”
In Mancera’s view, Tillerson’s comments won’t affect China’s increasing trade presence in South America.
“I think that the main idea behind Tillerson’s statements is to send a message to the region that Latin American countries should be careful with whom they trade with and what type of concessions they give to those partners that come in with apparent good conditions. But in the long run they seem to deter those countries’ economies and national industry,” he told RT.
Mancera also noted that it’s Washington’s policy that is to blame for the fact that Latin America is now looking for partners elsewhere.
However, while Donald Trump seems to consider Latin America as a source of drugs, unfair trade practices and illegal immigrants, Tillerson's speech was conciliatory. RT asked the analyst what that could mean for the US policy in Latin America.
According to Mancera, “Trump doesn’t think that all these countries are terrible,” despite the “some of the language he used recently to describe some of the countries in the region.”
“I also believe that this is not only about the Trump administration. There has been a complete disregard for the Latin American culture, values and its people, and not understanding the importance and the value of this region not only to the US, but to the world. In most cases Latin America produces and ships a lot of the food that is eaten in many countries around the world,” Mancera said. “I would suggest probably a different approach: instead of calling these counties the reason why America is bad, we should focus on issues like, for example, drug addiction in the US, which is the main reason why these countries have been affected for years – because of the drug wars, that have influenced America and also the region in a very negative way.”
“There has to be a more conciliatory speech on behalf of Washington and expressed hope that there would also be actions rather than just words,” he said.
But will China be able to suppress US trade dominance in Latin America particularly after Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement?
In Mancera’s view, it’s a “very complicated” issue and it has to be understood that Trump pulled back from the TPP because “because the agreement had some provisions that went against American companies and made American companies less competitive towards those that were non-American.”
“Trade is very important – I don’t think the president thinks that it’s not. I think he is focusing on having fair trade, where American companies can compete in the same ground with other nations in order to have trade that every country deserves and also for the people here at home to have the jobs in industry that they deserve,” he told RT.
However, Mancera continued, it’s unlikely that China could really outset the US in trade with Latin America “because in the end we all know that this idea of bringing in Chinese products has destroyed national industries.”
“In Colombia, for example, we had a lot of high important companies that were producing very good leather at a national level in the industry, and the industry has been destroyed because of the Chinese products. You have shoes that are made in China that are coming at a price that the national industrial cannot compete. This is something that happens not only in Columbia, but in other countries,” he explained.
So, he went on, it’s important that Latin America bring into place policies that would protect national industries.
“South America can become a very important trade bloc around the world. But it needs to elect leaders that have in their mind their people and not their own personal interest,” he told RT.