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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Speed up aid or lose clout: Clinton

US risks losing influence to China if it is too slow in helping needy nations

Source - Straits Times Online - 240909

'We're seeing particularly China come in right behind us, because countries get tired of talking to our bureaucracy and decide they're going to cut a deal with someone else.'

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on the growing influence of China

WASHINGTON: The United States risks losing influence to China because it is sometimes too slow to deliver aid to needy nations, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned.
Speaking to a congressional committee, Mrs Clinton cited the example of an emergency deal signed by China last month to help bail Jamaica out of its financial crisis.

'They (Jamaicans) have just signed a memorandum of understanding with China...and now they have got a government-to-government relationship with China,' she said.

'We have to be sure we have in place the safeguards so that the money goes where we intend it to go,' she told the sub-committee on foreign operations of the House Appropriations Committee.

She also urged Congress to move more quickly to deliver promised aid for Mexico's drug wars.

'It's just too slow, and when I was in Mexico, that's what I heard from both the President and the Foreign Secretary,' Mrs Clinton said, referring to her talks with President Felipe Calderon and Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa last month in Mexico City.

She said, for example, the US has been slow to release the money for Blackhawk helicopters needed to fight the drug cartel.

'Let's try to get to the bottom of this because you all do your work, you get it appropriated, I go around talking about what we need to do and it's kind of hollow, and we're losing ground,' the chief US diplomat said.

'And we're seeing particularly China come in right behind us, because countries get tired of talking to our bureaucracy and decide they're going to cut a deal with someone else,' said Mrs Clinton.

She cited a report in The Washington Post saying China and Jamaica - a traditional US ally in the Western hemisphere - signed contracts for loan packages totalling US$138 million (S$208 million) last month.

The newspaper also said China had signed multibillion-dollar loans for oil with Russia, Kazakhstan, Brazil and Venezuela, as well as multibillion-dollar currency swaps with Hong Kong, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Argentina, Belarus and Russia.

The newspaper said Jamaica went to China because the US was preoccupied with its own financial problems.

The Post's story discusses the emergence of the so-called 'Beijing Consensus', which some say could supplant the long-dominant Washington Consensus on how developing countries should manage their economies.

Some worry that countries accepting China's aid and loans could gravitate towards Chinese-style economic policies. Others say the global financial crisis has proven the strengths of such a model, the newspaper reported.

Jamaican ambassador to China Courtenay Rattray told The Post accepting China's loan made sense because his country has, in some ways, more in common with China than with other Western countries.

'Those are developed countries. They don't have such an in-depth understanding of the development aspirations of Jamaica as does China,' he said.