Tillerson cautions Latin America over China's influence

Tillerson cautions Latin America over China's influence
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Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonOvernight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Kudlow says Trump 'looking at' reforming law on bribing foreign officials Trump called top military brass 'a bunch of dopes and babies' in 2017: book MORE put China in his crosshairs on Thursday as he warned Latin American countries against relying too heavily on Beijing to bolster economic growth and development. 

Tillerson's remarks at the University of Texas came as the secretary prepared to embark on a six-day swing through Latin America and the Caribbean, his first multi-stop trip across the Western Hemisphere since taking office.

"China is getting a foothold in Latin America. It is using economic statecraft to pull the continent into its orbit," Tillerson told a crowd at his alma mater.


"Latin America does not need new imperial powers that seek only to benefit their own people," he added.

Tillerson also condemned Russian arms sales to authoritarian governments in the region, accusing Moscow of propping up anti-democratic regimes. 

In his remarks on Thursday, Tillerson laid out in broad terms the Trump administration's policies toward Latin America and elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere.

He pledged U.S. support for expanding democratic governance and free markets, vowed to crack down on cartels and corruption and declared 2018 "the year of the Americas," pointing to the Group of 20 summit, which is set to take place in Buenos Aires this year, and the Group of Seven summit in Quebec.

But he also sought to cast the U.S. "in vivid contrast" to China, whose political and economic influence has expanded in Latin America in recent years.

"We do not seek short-term deals with lopsided returns. We seek partners with shared values," Tillerson said. "With the United States you have a multidimensional partner."

"In this year of the Americas, the U.S. will continue to be the Western Hemisphere’s steadiest, strongest and most-enduring partner," he added.