Saturday, December 4, 2021

‘Build Back a Better World’: Biden Counters to China’s Belt and Road

US President Joe Biden used the edge of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, to advance his vision for a green, collaborative global infrastructure initiative, which he said ” A sustainable path to net-zero emissions by 2050″. And also provide an alternative to China’s huge Belt and Road Initiative.

“The Build Back Better Initiative, Great Britain’s Clean Green Initiative, the Global Gateway and the Clean Green Initiative are all part of a joint effort among G-7 partners to deliver high-quality, sustainable infrastructure,” Biden said in a roundtable. ” Event in Glasgow, Scotland.

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He and more than 100 other world leaders signed a climate agreement to help keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Biden outlined his Build Back Better World, or B3W, plan during the June G-7 summit with the goal of creating a “value-driven, high-standard, and transparent infrastructure partnership” to help finance projects in developing countries. started.

FILE – Motorists drive on Mombasa Road, next to the ongoing construction site of the Nairobi Expressway carried out by Chinese contractor China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) on July 12, 2021 in Nairobi, Kenya.

This makes it an obvious alternative to Beijing’s multitrillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative. That international development program has financed infrastructure projects in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and made inroads into Europe.

Biden said, “There is an urgent need to develop infrastructure in countries – infrastructure that prioritizes, when you build it – it prioritizes the fight against climate change from the moment the spade goes to the ground, and Green fuels economic growth,” Biden said.

The foundation of the American initiative has already begun. Officials led by US Deputy National Security Adviser Dalip Singh are in Ghana and Senegal this week to investigate infrastructure projects. A similar visit to Latin America in September was followed by a “hearing session”, where Singh led an inter-agency delegation to Colombia, Ecuador and Panama. Several other tours are planned in different regions.

The White House said, “The president’s vision for B3W is to work with partners who share our democratic values ​​and make infrastructure transparent, sustainable, upholding high standards, and where possible to catalyze the private sector.” We do.” Statement.

US Deputy National Security Adviser Dalip Singh, on the last of his three-nation Latin America tour to boost the G7's infrastructure program aimed at countering China's Belt and Road Initiative, in Panama City, Panama on September 30, 2021. As he speaks during a news conference.

US Deputy National Security Adviser Dalip Singh, on the last of his three-nation Latin America tour to boost the G7’s infrastructure program aimed at countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative, in Panama City, Panama on September 30, 2021. As he speaks during a news conference.

But this costly international effort could run into domestic troubles. Biden’s domestic Build Back Better initiative has faced resistance from members of his own Democratic Party, with the proposed legislation being significantly curtailed in recent weeks.

The administration has insisted that the American public wants the services offered in multitrillion-dollar infrastructure and spending plans and is withholding Congress approval.

“They want us to work,” Biden said. “And that’s why I’m working so hard to move forward with the Democratic Party and get my infrastructure bill and my Build Back Better bill passed.”

thin on the details

A formal US B3W launch event is planned for early next year and will include details of some initial projects aimed at reducing the $40 trillion needed by developing countries by 2035. But it is still unclear whether B3W can emerge as a viable alternative to the larger BRI. .

“We don’t have a good idea of ​​how much money the United States will spend on this, nor the extent to which other countries will cooperate,” said Jack Cooper, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “And we don’t even have details on the timeline.”

A White House official acknowledged the plan has to go ahead.

“We are just getting started, whereas BRI has been around for years and years,” the official told the VOA.

As US officials begin their B3W tour, countries will be on the lookout for evidence that the US is offering a healthier alternative to the BRI, stigmatized by negative environmental and social impacts, lack of transparency and corruption has been, and has been criticized for leaving it. Governments around the world are in debt.

world leaders attend a meeting on "build a better world" The COP26 United Nations Climate Summit initiative on November 2, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland.

World leaders attend a meeting on the “Build Back a Better World” initiative at the COP26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, November 2, 2021.

But it is clear that some countries are interested in having options other than what China has to offer. Also at the Glasgow summit, major coal producer South Africa signed an $8.5 billion deal with the US, the European Union and other European countries to establish more clean energy options and help workers who are affected by moving away from coal. can be.

However, in some cases, BRIs are welcome.

Chinese investments are particularly appealing to countries with poor human rights records and high levels of corruption, said Lucas Myers, program coordinator for Southeast Asia at the Wilson Center’s Asia Program, precisely because its terms are more flexible and less than regulations. are compelled.

He said the challenge for Washington is to ensure resilience and cost-effectiveness while maintaining strict fiscal, human rights and environmental standards.

And while the administration may not be able to compete with BRI in terms of scale at this point, it appears they are aiming to invest in areas where Beijing is struggling.

Hillman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International, said, “Each of the four pillars of B3W – climate, health, digital and gender – are areas in which the United States and its G-7 partners have comparative advantages. ” Study Economics Program.

Analysts also say that B3W may eventually be able to match BRI’s financial firepower if the administration can access private sector funding. Estimates of the cost of the BRI vary widely, ranging from $1 trillion to $8 trillion.

“If the United States and its allies can raise investments from pension funds, life insurance companies, and other institutional investors, B3W could be much larger than China’s BRI,” Hillman said. It will take time to create bankable projects, he said, but efforts such as the Blue Dot network, the US State Department’s mechanism to certify that infrastructure projects meet strong international quality standards, make it easier for private sector investors to can make it easier.

Hopefully, as the track record of successful projects grows, more countries will be drawn to the initiative, Hillman said. And if Washington can coordinate with other like-minded development programs the impact could be exponentially greater.

“Japan, one of the G-7 members, is actually the largest investor in FDI” [foreign direct investment] In this area, with extensive experience and networks throughout Southeast Asia,” Myers said, the US can take advantage of some of Tokyo’s expertise and ties.

The key is providing a compelling vision, attractive benefits and practical incentives, Hillman said.

The administration is planning for this. “As the US and partners begin to develop and implement the plan, “strong, meaningful partnerships will be critical,” the official told VOA.

‘debt-trap diplomacy’

While the US has a long track record of helping other countries build their infrastructure, including rebuilding post-war Western Europe under the Marshall Plan, the Trump administration was the first to condemn China’s international investment strategy.

In a 2018 speech, former Vice President Mike Pence accused Chinese leader Xi Jinping of expanding his influence through “debt-trap diplomacy”.

“Today, that country is offering hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure loans to governments from Asia to Africa, Europe to Latin America,” Pence said. “Yet the terms of those loans are opaque at best, and the benefits flow heavily to Beijing.”

In his 2018 trip to Asia, Pence highlighted what was the dominant US option at the time – the US International Development Finance Corporation, a new agency that has $$ to support private investment for infrastructure projects around the world. 60 billion portfolio.

So far, the agency has not proven to be a viable alternative to BRI, with DFC currently claiming 57 ongoing worldwide projects totaling approximately $2.5 billion. This may be because the initiative was used as a tool to achieve Trump’s short-term geopolitical goal of including the Middle East. The investment was offered to entice countries to sign the Abrahamic Agreement, Trump’s landmark agreement to secure diplomatic recognition to Israel.

(VOA’s Anita Powell contributed to this story.)

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This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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