The U.S. global Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative has been presented by President Biden to Latin America as an alternative to Chinese infrastructure financing. It is not to be confused with the domestic Build Back Better Agenda to create jobs by reducing taxes and lowering the cost of services to families. The B3W intends to confront the Asian giant's One Belt, One Road project along two main policy lines. The first is to return to the struggle for liberal democracy and the protection of human rights; the second is to help nations avoid falling into China's debt trap. This text shows the Biden administration's total rejection of China and its repeated efforts to eradicate China's influence in Latin America.
The G7 launched the proposal in Cornwall, England, in June 2021, with essential gaps in the project's operation. G7 member countries will discuss them at the next meeting in Germany in 2022. The focus of the B3W project is on infrastructure development, despite having the G7 turned to China for investment to renew its infrastructure. It is unclear whether these infrastructures will be interconnected to serve a commercial purpose like the Silk Road initiative.
China continues to be seen by the U.S. as the most significant national security threat of the 21st century, following the Republican administration. The administration warns that it is imperative to curb the access of challengers to critical regions and to put in place democratic alliances, partnerships and rules to maintain a stable international system. Such a system would seek to hold countries such as China accountable. The questions are: to whom should they be accountable? Where does this leave the United Nations? Will China adopt the old principle of U.S. exceptionalism? Will the U.S. seek to hold China accountable to them? The scenario opens up a cold war scenario with Latin America as a contested zone.
The B3W radiates to the rest of the G7, intending to make a standard policy aimed at middle- and low-income nations to keep them under the Western umbrella. It aims for each G7 member to focus on a different geographic area of action and for projects funded by local development banks and private initiatives. Overall, the U.S. aims for B3W to cover the infrastructure deficit of more than 40,000 million dollars in developing countries, under the principles of transparency, democracy and sustainability, as all infrastructure projects will have to adhere to a strict margin following the Paris climate change agreement. It will also encourage the private sector to invest in projects that support climate mitigation, health and food security, digital technology and gender equality. Unlike China, the U.S. does not have the money to go it alone and profit.
Biden mentions how essential Latin America is for the U.S., which is why in early October 2021, a U.S. delegation travelled to Colombia, Panama and Ecuador, to engage in talks with their governments and evaluate possible infrastructure projects under the B3W initiative, which the IDB would finance. U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Daleep Singh led the mission, including U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC) Chief Operating Officer David Marchick and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Ricardo Zuniga.
Chinese investment in infrastructure, health cooperation, renewable energy and digital technology increased during the pandemic, but official appropriations have declined. China remains the leading trading partner and financier of major economies such as Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Peru, so the dispute will be tenser in South American countries that do not have the U.S. as a significant partner in any field. Panama, with its canal, is strategic for the U.S., as is Colombia with two seas. There is a significant U.S. military presence in both, while Ecuador has agreed to cede an airstrip for official U.S. ships in the Galapagos.
Finally, B3W represents for the U.S. a means of strategic competition with China, which together with other projects such as the Clean Grid or the Chips for America Act, shows that, at least in the short term, tensions and the refusal to cooperate with the Asian giant will be a constant. The U.S. projects are still very young and have a minor impact on the region. She will probably try to retract China's influence by buying such debt from Latin American countries, with lower interest rates as it has already done in Ecuador in exchange for not using Huawei's 5G technology.