On Friday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., paired up with U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, on the “Advancing Competitiveness, Transparency, and Security in the Americas (ACTSA) Act.”
Rubio’s office noted that the bill “would strengthen economic competitiveness, expand safeguards for physical and digital infrastructure, and address human rights abuses from digital surveillance technologies in Latin America and the Caribbean” and is “the first comprehensive effort to improve U.S. economic engagement and diplomatic presence, and address the Government of China’s economic, political, security, and intelligence activities in the region.”
Both Rubio and Menendez sit on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Other backers of the bill include U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Mary., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Tim Kaine, D-Va.
“As the Chinese government and Communist Party continue expanding their government-financed ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiative and debt-trap diplomacy throughout our hemisphere, the United States must address the threat this challenge poses in our region,” Rubio said. “The Chinese Communist Party’s ultimate goal is to use economic power to displace the U.S. and the role our nation plays. I’m proud to join Senator Menendez in introducing this bipartisan legislation, which seeks to strengthen our economic competitiveness and counter Beijing’s growing malign influence in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
“It’s well past time to step up U.S. diplomatic and economic efforts in the Americas and ensure China’s presence in the region does not undermine the democratic values and universal human rights that the United States has advanced in the region for decades,” Menendez said. “Our bipartisan legislation would enhance U.S. economic engagement and diplomatic presence in the hemisphere, and help our partners develop the tools they need to protect against predatory economic practices and risks to their infrastructure.”
“The best way to counter Chinese attempts at influence is through greater U.S. engagement globally; we must make clear that America is not retreating from our regional and bilateral relationships,” Cardin said. “I’m proud to support this bill that would enhance public engagement by supporting our neighbors in Latin America and improve our diplomatic, economic, security, and development partnerships in the region.”
“The Communist Chinese Party has vastly expanded its influence in the Western Hemisphere through engaging in economic blackmail and coercion,” Cruz said. “China poses the greatest geopolitical threat to the United States. I’m proud to join my colleagues on this important measure to strengthen our diplomatic, economic, and security cooperation agreements with our allies and partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to counter China’s aggressive expansionism and protect our national security interests in the region.”
“Our cultural, historical, and economic ties to Latin America and the Caribbean necessitate a redoubling of U.S. engagement with our neighbors. I’m glad this bill rightfully increases our nation’s attention on this critical region at this critical juncture,” Kaine said.
The bill would authorize Caribbean nations for U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) initiatives and would ensure 35 percent of DFC funds would go to that region and Latin America over the next ten years. The bill would also ramp up American efforts against China in the Western Hemisphere, including offering visas, providing aid to Caribbean governments to help counter China and have “all U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Latin America and the Caribbean to appoint a China Engagement Officer.” The bill would also have the U.S. State Department do more to help other countries in the Western Hemisphere with cybersecurity, including setting aside $10 million “for civil society internet freedom programs in the Americas.”
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