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Tillerson sounds alarm over China's influence in Latin America

Tillerson deplanes after arriving in Bariloche, Argentina. Photo: DAVE CLARK/AFP/Getty Images

Ahead of his visit this week to South America, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been warning about the rising influence of China and Russia in the region. "Latin America doesn't need new imperial powers that seek only to benefit their own people,” he said last week.

The big picture: China is now the top trading partner of Brazil, the region’s largest economy, as well as Argentina and Peru, the two South American stops on Tillerson’s trip. Last month in Chile, Tillerson’s Chinese counterpart announced further plans to invest in Latin America, as part of China’s massive Belt and Road initiative.

The two sides

  • Tillerson’s case: He said before departing Texas for Mexico last week that China “offers the appearance of an attractive path to development,” but that comes with the price of “long-term dependency” on a country that doesn’t share the “fundamental values” of the region. The U.S., he argued, seeks not profits but partnership.
  • The Chinese counter-argument, from an op-ed in the Communist Party-linked Global Times: "China is merely doing business with Latin America and all the trade ties are based on the countries' free will and for mutual benefit ... However, the U.S. has long seen Latin America as its backyard,” it said, per CNBC.
    • China Daily, meanwhile, accused the U.S. of maintaining Cold War “paranoia” while “the rest of the world has moved on.”

The Trump factor: Approval of President Trump in Argentina, where Tillerson spoke Monday, sits at 11%, down from 55% under Barack Obama, according to Gallup.


  • Ted Picccone, Brookings: “For now, China’s rise has not unduly harmed core U.S. national security interests in the Western Hemisphere, but it has challenged U.S. influence and warrants continued attention.”

The latest: Tillerson was asked about his China comments on Monday in Argentina, and said the issue hadn't come up in his meeting with the country’s foreign minister.

Go deeper: Stephen Kaplan of the Wilson Center analyzes the spike in Chinese investment in Latin America, writing in the Washington Post.

Steve LeVine 6 hours ago
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Trade war brews as China draws up Trump tariff reprisal list

Taizhou Port, China. Photo by Yang Bo / China News Service / VCG / Getty

For decades, western companies have griped that Beijing is forcing them to hand over tech secrets and source code as a price of access to the Chinese market. Now they have a White House prepared to act forcefully to stop it — starting as early as tomorrow — but the fear is a costly tit-for-tat trade war.

The big picture: President Trump plans to announce tentative tariffs, allow a comment period for industry and other players, then enact the sanctions, report Bloomberg's Andrew Mayeda and Jennifer Jacobs. But China is drawing up a reprisal list that includes soybeans, sorghum and live hogs, report the WSJ's Lingling Wei, Yoko Kubota and Liza Lin.

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Peru president resigns ahead of impeachment vote

Peru president
Photo by Manuel Medir/LatinContent/Getty Images

Peru's president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, has offered his resignation to Congress hours before a vote to impeach him for a vote-buying scandal, reports Reuters.

Why it matters: Kuczynski had previously resisted calls to step down, but changed his tune following the release of a video Tuesday that showed his allies attempting to buy an impeachment vote from a member of the opposition party. Kuczynski was expected to play host at next month's Summit of the Americas in Lima.