U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned countries of the Western Hemisphere to beware of “alarming” actions by Russia and China in their region, urging them to work with the United States instead.
"Latin America doesn't need new imperial powers that seek only to benefit their own people," Tillerson said in speech in Texas on February 1 before arriving in Mexico to begin a tour of regional countries.
Tillerson said that “strong institutions and governments that are accountable to their people also secure their sovereignty against potential predatory actors that are now showing up in our hemisphere.”
He said that Russia’s "growing presence in the region is alarming.”
Tillerson added that Moscow “continues to sell arms and military equipment to unfriendly regimes who do not share or respect democratic values.”
But he had the harshest words for China, which is now the largest trading partner of Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Peru. But, he said, Chinese offers “always come at a price.”
While the trade has brought benefits, he said, the “unfair trading practices used by many Chinese have also harmed these countries’ manufacturing sectors, generating unemployment and lowering wages for workers."
“China -- as it does in emerging markets throughout the world -- offers the appearance of an attractive path to development. But in reality, this often involves trading short-term gains for long-term dependency.
"Our region must be diligent to guard against faraway powers who do not reflect the fundamental values shared in this region," he said.
Specifically, he said that Chinese business projects almost always demand the use of imported Chinese labor, large loans, and unsustainable debt “and ignore human and property rights.”
After his Texas speech, Tillerson made the short trip to Mexico, where he was scheduled to meet with top officials to discuss security, immigration, and the fight against drug trafficking.
He will also visit Peru, Argentina, Colombia, and Jamaica on the tour.