August 14, 2020

Menendez, Rubio Lead Introduction of Groundbreaking Legislation to Strengthen U.S. Competitiveness and Address China’s Engagement in the Americas

Bipartisan legislation is the most comprehensive effort to improve U.S. economic engagement and address the Government of China’s economic, political, security, and intelligence activities in Latin America and the Caribbean

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chairman  and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) today introduced the Advancing Competitiveness, Transparency, and Security in the Americas Act (ACTSA). The new groundbreaking legislation would strengthen economic competitiveness, expand safeguards for physical and digital infrastructure, and address human rights abuses from digital surveillance technologies in Latin America and the Caribbean. The bipartisan legislation is the first comprehensive effort to date to improve U.S. economic engagement and diplomatic presence, and address the Government of China’s economic, political, security, and intelligence activities in the region.

“It’s well past time for our government to step up U.S. diplomatic and economic efforts in the Americas and ensure China’s imposing presence in the region does not undermine the democratic values and universal human rights that the United States has helped advance for decades,” said Sen. Menendez. “Our  bipartisan legislation lays a new path forward to enhance U.S. economic engagement and diplomatic presence in the hemisphere, reinforce our deep-rooted and interwoven histories, and support our partners to develop the tools they need to protect against Beijing’s predatory economic practices and risks to their infrastructure.”

“As the Chinese government and Communist Party continue expanding their government-financed ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiative and debt-trap diplomacy throughout our hemisphere, the United States must address the threat this challenge poses in our region,” Sen. Rubio said. “The Chinese Communist Party’s ultimate goal is to use economic power to displace the U.S. and the role our nation plays. I’m proud to join Senator Menendez in introducing this bipartisan legislation, which seeks to strengthen our economic competitiveness and counter Beijing’s growing malign influence in Latin America and the Caribbean.”  

“The best way to counter Chinese attempts at influence is through greater U.S. engagement globally; we must make clear that America is not retreating from our regional and bilateral relationships,” said Sen. Cardin. “I’m proud to support this bill that would enhance public engagement by supporting our neighbors in Latin America and improve our diplomatic, economic, security, and development partnerships in the region.”

“The Communist Chinese Party has vastly expanded its influence in the Western Hemisphere though engaging in economic blackmail and coercion,” Sen. Cruz said. “China poses the greatest geopolitical threat to the United States. I’m proud to join my colleagues on this important measure to strengthen our diplomatic, economic, and security cooperation agreements with our allies and partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to counter China’s aggressive expansionism and protect our national security interests in the region.”

“Our cultural, historical, and economic ties to Latin America and the Caribbean necessitate a redoubling of U.S. engagement with our neighbors. I’m glad this bill rightfully increases our nation’s attention on this critical region at this critical juncture,” said Sen. Kaine

ACTSA’s key elements include:

Enhancing U.S. Economic Tools and Diplomatic Presence:

-        Authorizes Caribbean countries’ eligibility for U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) initiatives.

-        Dedicates 35 percent of the DFC budget to Latin America and the Caribbean for 10 years.

-        Requires an assessment of the need to increase Foreign Commercial Service and public diplomacy offices at U.S. diplomatic missions in the Americas.

 

Countering Malign Economic Practices:

-        Requires the State, Treasury, and Justice Departments to provide technical assistance to governments to adapt standards similar to the Foreign Corruption Practices Act (FCPA).

-        Revokes and prohibits visas for individuals involved in fraudulent business practices with the Government of China and Chinese state-owned entities.

-        Expands intelligence reporting on China’s economic, political, security and intelligence activities in the Americas.

-        Requires all U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Latin America and the Caribbean to appoint a China Engagement Officer.

Securing Physical and Digital Infrastructure:

-        Requires the State and Treasury Departments to provide technical assistance to governments in the Americas to establish mechanisms similar to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

-        Mandates that the Secretary of State lead interagency initiatives to investigate and prosecute cybercrimes.

-        Requires the Secretary of State to work with the Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command to provide technical assistance to protect telecom, data networks and critical digital infrastructure in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Supporting Civil Society:

-        Requires the Secretary of State to conduct diplomacy on the risks to civil liberties of pervasive surveillance technologies.

-        Authorizes $10 million for civil society internet freedom programs in the Americas.

-        Requires the Secretary of State to expand education, professional, and cultural exchange programs to counter the Government of China’s educational influence initiatives.

-        Authorizes new initiatives to strengthen the role of civil society and investigative journalism to promote government transparency and accountability.

A section-by-section summary of the Advancing Competitiveness, Transparency, and Security in the Americas Act (ACTSA) can be found HERE and the full text can be found HERE.

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