EXCLUSIVE: Members of Congress met with officials in Guyana on Friday to strengthen US ties with the South American country while keeping encroaching Chinese influence at bay.
House Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., led a group of Democrats and Republicans in Guyana that was part of a three-country tour that also included stops in Mexico and Ecuador.
“We appreciate the productive conversation the delegation had with President Dr. Ali on America-Guyana-Guyana bilateral relations. Guyana’s abundant energy resources have the potential to lift its people out of poverty, help power the world and provide more affordable energy for American families and job creators,” Smith told Fox News Digital.
“China is also involved in oil exploration in Guyana,” he said. “America must work to outperform China around the world while strengthening key American supply chains, increasing U.S. production of affordable energy resources, and enhancing partnerships with allies in the Western Hemisphere and beyond.”
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US relations with Guyana have been fragile in the past, particularly during the latter country’s period as a one-party socialist state in the second half of the 20th century. Relations have improved since the 1990s as Guyana moved towards democratically held elections and improved its human rights record.
However, in 2018 Guyana also joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a massive global infrastructure development plan that has global security hawks worried about Beijing’s brazen efforts to expand its influence abroad.
Smith said his congressional delegation helped portray the US as a “much-needed alternative” to China.
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“Our delegation’s meetings have demonstrated how U.S. bilateral relationships in the region benefit American workers and provide a much-needed alternative to countries that might otherwise orient their economies towards China. An energy boom in Guyana can help American workers while benefiting the people of Guyana and their economy,” the Republican lawmaker said.
In addition to meetings with Guyana’s president, vice president and their cabinet, lawmakers also spoke with members of the country’s opposition party and US Marines stationed in the capital, Georgetown.
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Smith expressed concern about China’s encroaching influence in South America earlier this week after the Ways and Means Committee halted operations in Ecuador.
“We must use every tool at our disposal, including trade, to counter China’s influence in Latin America, and I have shared with President Lasso my concerns about Ecuador’s growing trade ties with China,” the congressman said.
They had started the trip with a visit to Mexico, where Smith said they discussed the Central American country’s commitments under the US-Mexico-Canada trade deal and their disapproval of the southern border crisis.
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