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Latin America and the U.S.-China Agenda

Xi Jinping of China

Xi Jinping (AP)

January 28, 2019

At their most recent meeting during the G20 in Argentina, Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping had the opportunity to discuss a number of flashpoints and issues for cooperation. As expected, they focused on the bilateral economic agenda and paused, at least temporarily, the upward ratchet of mutually-directed punitive tariffs. They also had an opportunity to discuss issues of concern in the Americas, particularly Venezuela, but do not appear to have addressed them in any meaningful manner. At best, this was an opportunity missed, given the physical location of the meeting and the assembled global leaders, which included several from the region.

But the issues are not going to go away. In fact, they are getting more pronounced.

The recent change in recognition from Taiwan to China by Panama, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic has caused a stir in Washington. While these are sovereign decisions for each nation in question to make, nonetheless the impression has been that China is actively and aggressively engaged in efforts to shift the regional political alignment away from Western interests, right under Washington’s nose. As a result, the United States has begun to look at steps that might be taken to remove some or all preferential trade and other benefits from the nations in question. Whether or not such actions would ever be taken, it is a shot across the bow for others who might also be considering similar steps and a means, perhaps, to limit the benefits that might accrue to China from the change in recognition...

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