American officials are visiting countries around the world to identify 50 projects for President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better World effort.
The B3W, as it is called, is an international partnership aimed at supporting projects related to climate, health, digital technology and gender equality in developing countries. Biden announced the program during the June meeting of G7 leaders. The G7, or Group of Seven, includes the European countries of Britain, France, Italy and Germany. The other three are Japan, Canada and the United States.
Daleep Singh is a national security adviser on international economics for the Biden administration. He recently visited Ghana and Senegal. A White House press official called Singh’s trip “the first B3W listening session in Africa.”
Singh made similar visits to Colombia, Ecuador and Panama. Next, he goes to Southeast Asia.
A top administration official said the U.S. has identified some 50 projects in those five countries alone. The official did not give a cost estimate but described some of the climate linked projects.
"…we had quite a few discussions about how we could help finance renewable energy projects in solar and hydro and wind," the official said. "Also projects that could help reduce the rate of deforestation, which creates a carbon sink and helps these countries meet their emission reduction targets."
Many observers see Biden’s B3W effort as a counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). That international development program has financed infrastructure projects in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.
Lucas Myers is an expert with the Asia Program of the Wilson Center research group. He says Chinese investments are especially welcomed in corrupt countries with poor human rights records because China’s terms on such issues are more flexible.
The U.S., however, is concerned with “democratic values,” in the countries it works with, the Biden administration said in an October statement.
“The president’s vision for B3W is to work with partners that share our democratic values to finance and develop infrastructure...” the statement read.
Critics of the B3W partnership said that could be a problem.
Marc Mealy is a vice president of policy at the US-ASEAN Business Council. He said it would be difficult to find international support for B3W if only nations seen as “democratic” by the U.S. could take part.
Dalibor Rohac, an expert with the American Enterprise Institute, agreed. He told VOA, "if you are trying to build relationships and build some sort of broader coalitions to counter China's influence in say, Southeast Asia, where, by necessity, you need to sort of work with countries that fall short of Western liberal democratic standards."
It’s in the details
At last week’s gathering of G-7 leaders, U.S. officials said the B3W partnership aims for a $40 trillion investment in infrastructure that developing countries will need by 2035.
They added that B3W would provide an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). First proposed in 2013, estimates of BRI costs differ widely, from as little as $1 trillion to as much as $8 trillion.
American officials said Senegal and Ghana welcomed the U.S.’s promise that B3W would not require agreements that could result in a takeover of a country’s airports or seaports.
Projects discussed included setting up a possible vaccine manufacturing center in Senegal, helping with renewable energy supplies and lending to women-owned businesses.
Wang Yiwei is director of the institute of international affairs at the Renmin University of China. Wang told the state-run Global Times "We know they (the US and its Western allies) are just talking big and we know they want to compete with us...”
The U.S. is planning an official launch of B3W early next year and will include details about the projects.
I'm Caty Weaver.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on reports from VOA News and Reuters. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
session - n. a formal meeting
counter - n. something that is done as a defense against or a response to something else
infrastructure - n. the basic equipment such as roads and bridges
flexible - adj. willing to change or try different things
standard - n. a level of achievement, quality, etc... that is considered desirable or acceptable