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McCaul: US must ‘wake up’ and invest in Latin America to gain competitive edge on China

House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said the U.S. must “wake up” to the very real threat of China’s strategic dominance in Central America, “our own backyard.”

McCaul held a roundtable Wednesday with other members of the China Task Force, which is investigating China’s role in the COVID-19 outbreak and also countering other threats from the communist state, including ensuring that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is kept from obtaining critical U.S. technologies.

The ranking member was asked by Fox News Digital about comments made by the Colombian president last week, that the United States is far behind China in investing in Latin American strategic infrastructure.

“If you’re not on the field, you can’t win a game, can’t win a contest if you’re not on the field. And for too long, the United States has not been on the field against China to compete. And we need more private investments,” McCaul responded, noting that China takes a great deal of lithium and cobalt from Latin American and ships it to the Shenzhen province. 

COLOMBIA’S PRESIDENT: CHINA AHEAD OF US IN STRATEGIC INFRASTRUCTURE BIDDING, CALLS FOR SECURING 5G NETWORKS

The congressman’s comments come after Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez encouraged the U.S. to step up its strategic infrastructure bidding in Latin America, saying the U.S. is far behind China on that front.

During an exclusive interview with Fox News Digital last week, President Duque said he does not consider China’s strategic trade and infrastructure investments in his country a “threat.”

I have said that Colombia has a commercial relation with China, a trade relationship, as the U.S. has a trade relationship with China. And we have seen Chinese corporations come to Colombia to participate in infrastructure bids, and they have won some. They have lost others. And many people ask me, for example, if I consider that a threat, I don’t consider that as a threat,” said Duque.

FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2018 file photo, Colombia's President Ivan Duque gives a thumbs up to the press during a welcoming ceremony for him at the presidential palace in Panama City. As Duque completes his first 100 days in office, his administration has been beset by street protests and an unruly congress that has blocked some of his flagship initiatives. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco, File)

“I always try to call other countries to actively participate in the strategic infrastructure biddings that we have. We haven’t seen that much American companies participating. And I think they have to participate. They have to be more present, not only in Colombia but in the rest of Latin America, because those guys’ biddings are transparent, they’re open, but it’s great to see more U.S. investment participating in those kinds of projects,” the president continued.

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McCaul also mentioned Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s boycott of the ongoing Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, saying it’s alarming that Mexico, which sits in the “backyard” of the U.S., is cozy with dictator-led countries Nicaragua and Venezuela and Cuba.

“We need to wake up. This is in our own backyard. And this unholy alliance that Xi made with Putin is also an unholy alliance in our own backyard,” said McCaul.

The congressman also said the U.S. has must stop funding the Belt and Road Initiative, which he called a “debt trap.”

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16:  U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) brief members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House after a meeting with President Donald Trump October 16, 2019 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Belt and Road Initiative announced in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping is a planned multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure program that is intended to link China with more than 100 countries through railroad, shipping and energy projects. It has been perceived as putting the U.S. in a disadvantageous strategic position.

McCaul was also joined by Rep. Mark Green, ranking member of the subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, Migration and International Economic Policy. 

Green told Fox News Digital that a bipartisan bill he introduced in April, the “Western Hemisphere Nearshoring Act,” is designed to address China’s malignant influence and bolster investment in Latin America in order to stem the flow of illegal migration to the U.S.

“It’s designed to protect private investment dollars, so no taxpayer dollars, just private investment dollars to companies manufacturing in China if they move to Latin America, create opportunity in Latin America, push back and compete with the Belt and Road Initiative,” he said. “And by creating opportunity in Latin America, decrease pressure on our southern border. So it’s a win-win, we decouple from China, it’s a win, we help our neighbors in Latin America, we push back on Belt and Road, and it’s win that it affects the push factors of migration come to the United States.”

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