Trade deal nears, but tensions are rising over China’s inroads into America’s backyard

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While China and the United States are edging closer to a trade deal to end their protracted tariff war, the mutual distrust and geopolitical rivalry between the world’s top two economies appears to be escalating.

Squabbles over China’s growing influence in Latin America and the Caribbean broke out again after Beijing last week secured Jamaica’s official endorsement of its vast  “Belt and Road Initiative”.

Jamaica joined President Xi Jinping’s signature infrastructure and trade push on Thursday by signing a memorandum of understanding, making it the latest Caribbean country to join the initiative after Barbados, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.

Beijing’s political and economic inroads into countries deemed to be America’s backyard have apparently unnerved Washington, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ramping up his criticism of China in the past few days.

During a four-nation tour of Latin America, the top US diplomat focused heavily on China’s role in Venezuela and growing economic reach in the region, accusing Beijing of injecting predatory, corrosive capital to buy off corrupt leaders and playing a long game against Washington’s interests.

Analysts said Pompeo’s remarks on China showed that the progress reportedly achieved on the trade dispute would not extend to other tensions in bilateral ties, and the two countries remained on a collision course in the long run.

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