New US Ambassador Warns China's "Payday Loans Diplomacy"

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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – The new US ambassador to the United States Australia said on Wednesday that he was concerned about how China lends money to developing Pacific countries in what he calls "payday loans diplomacy".

Arthur Culvahouse Jr. told reporters in Canberra that it was incumbent on US allies and western liberal democracies to educate the public about the dangers of such loans.

US Vice President Mike Pence had previously warned against China's deployment of "debt traps" against developing Pacific countries.

"I would use a stronger language. I would use the diplomacy of payday loans " Culvahouse I said.

He said, "Money seems attractive and easy at first, but you'd better read the fine print."

China categorically rejects accusations that it uses loans, grants and other financial incentives to expand its diplomatic and political reach, saying it simply acts in the best interests of both sides in such transactions.

He is especially sensitive to "debt trap" claims related to projects under his massive belt and road infrastructure initiative, a signature policy of President Xi Jinping.

Yet China has largely ignored criticism of its relations with Sri Lanka, where it has been forced to sell a port, airport and land for development after being unable to repay billions of dollars in loans. Chinese, and has endeavored to mitigate criticism. Malaysia and others on the conditions of projects backed by Chinese loans.

At a daily press briefing in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China had noticed that "some US officials continue to denounce mutually beneficial cooperation between China and China." Other countries, including South-South cooperation with the Pacific island countries ".

"I hope that they will correct their attitude, keep in mind the long-term interests of these developing countries and do what is conducive to the long-term development of these countries, rather than to sow trouble from nothing, "Lu m said.

The United States and Australia have their own infrastructure investment projects in the region.

Last July, US Overseas Private Investment Corp., the Japan Investment Cooperation Bank and the Australian Government announced a partnership to invest in Asia.Pacific Infrastructure.

The partners said in a joint statement at the time that good investments stem from transparency, open competition, sustainability, adherence to strict global standards, the use of labor Local artwork and the need to avoid unsustainable debt.

In November, Australia announced a $ 2 billion Australian infrastructure financing facility for the Pacific ($ 1.4 billion) to provide grants and long-term loans for Investments in telecommunications, energy, transport and water infrastructure.

China protested last January when Australia's Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, said China's aid programs in the Pacific island countries were creating "white elephants" that threatened stability. economic without bringing benefits.

Although China is an important customer for Australian products ranging from iron ore to higher education, friction has developed between them over the Canberra Treaty's ties with Washington and accusations of China's interference in Australian politics.

Culvahouse mitigated the expectations of President Donald Trump's visit Australia from time to time, saying that he had spoken to the White House before he left and that a presidential visit was still a possibility, Trump had "a busy schedule".

"I expect many senior government officials I met with to visit me. Australia this year, "he added.

Long affiliated with Republican officials, Culvahouse oversaw the selection process for Trump's vice president in 2016.

A Republican from Tennessee, Culvahouse is the former president of O'Melveny & Myers, an international law firm. He helped the late Senator John McCain review the 2008 Vice President's nominations and served as an advisor to US President Ronald Reagan from 1987 to 1989.

Before Culvahouse presented his credentials on Wednesday, the ambassador's post had been vacant since October 2016.

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Christopher Bodeen, a writer at the Associated Press in Beijing, contributed to this report.

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