Chinese president Xi Jinping begins a tour of Latin America today. First stop, the Caribbean island of Trinidad. His visit comes on the heels of Vice President Biden’s tour of the region. Biden just signed a renewable energy agreement with Trinidad. So what can China offer?
Trinidad is one of the world’s leading producers of natural gas. The U.S. used to buy a lot of it from Trinidad, until we tapped our own reserves.
“Trinidad now needs to find global markets for its primary commodity,” says Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas. “China’s hungry for energy and it makes a lot of sense to talk to the Trinidadians about perhaps developing that energy relationship.”
Leaders from the U.S. and China down-play their competition.
“I don’t think either of them see themselves in a head-to-head race for influence in the region necessarily,” Farnsworth says.
But the U.S. and China also compete in Latin America, as the continent becomes increasingly important to the world’s economy.
“Chinese national oil companies have a competitive advantage over U.S. oil companies,” says Jorge Piñón with the University of Texas in Austin. “They also play the role of a banker to the energy sector.”
Piñón says China loaned a total of $45 billion to Brazil and Venezuela to develop energy projects, with the loans to be repaid with oil.
That’s a deal it would be hard for Exxon or Chevron to match.
If you’re a member of your local public radio station, we thank you — because your support helps those stations keep programs like Marketplace on the air. But for Marketplace to continue to grow, we need additional investment from those who care most about what we do: superfans like you.
Your donation — as little as $5 — helps us create more content that matters to you and your community, and to reach more people where they are – whether that’s radio, podcasts or online.
When you contribute directly to Marketplace, you become a partner in that mission: someone who understands that when we all get smarter, everybody wins.