U.S. eyes January rollout of first projects to counter China's Belt and Road

Officials are meeting government and private-sector leaders as they hunt for projects to be funded under the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative launched by the G7 rich democracies in June

U.S. President Joe Biden

Wahington - The United States plans toi nvest in five to 10 large infrastructure projects around the world in January as part of a broader Group of Seven program to counter China's Belt and Road Initiative, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.

A U.S. delegation led by President Joe Biden's deputy national security adviser, Daleep Singh, identified at least 10 promising projects in Senegal and Ghana during a series of "listening tours" last week, the official said.

Officials are meeting government and private-sector leaders as they hunt for projects to be funded under the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative launched by the G7 rich democracies in June. Plans could be finalized during a G7meeting in December, the official said. A U.S. delegation visited Ecuador, Panama and Colombia during a similar tour in early October, with another slated tovisit Asia before year-end, the official said, without namingany specific Asian countries. The G7 B3W initiative is aimed at partially meeting the $40trillion in infrastructure investment that developing countrieswill need by 2035 and providing an alternative to problematiclending practices by China, officials have said. The United States will offer developing countries "the fullrange" of U.S. financial tools, including equity stakes, loanguarantees, political insurance, grants and technical expertiseto focus on climate, health, digital technology and genderequality, the official told reporters.

The effort is seeking to "identify flagship projects thatcould launch by the start of next year," the official said. Singh was joined in Africa by Alexia Latortue, deputy chiefexecutive officer of the Millennium Challenge Corp, and TravisAdkins, deputy assistant administrator for Africa at the U.S.International Development Finance Corp, said Emily Horne,spokesperson for the White House National Security Council. Biden sought to advance the initiative during a meeting onthe sidelines of the COP26 UN climate conference with EuropeanCommission President Ursula von der Leyen, British PrimeMinister Boris Johnson and other G7 partners, she added. The administration official said senior officials in Senegaland Ghana welcomed U.S. assurances that unlike China, theworld's largest creditor, the United States would not requirenon-disclosure agreements or collateral agreements that couldresult in later seizure of ports or airports. Projects discussed included setting up a possible vaccinemanufacturing hub for West Africa in Senegal, bolsteringrenewable energy supplies, boosting lending to women-ownedbusinesses, and narrowing the digital divide. When asked about the project during a routine press briefingon Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbinsaid there was "enormous space" for infrastructure cooperation. "Different initiatives don't offset or replace each other,"Wang told reporters. "The world needs efforts to build bridges...we need toadvance connectivity, not decoupling."

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