Thirteen Republican members of the House of Representatives -- a list of these members is included at the end of this piece -- sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai expressing concern about "the growing influence and intensified engagement of China in Latin America and Caribbean trade and economic relations," and arguing that "[t]he United States cannot afford to stand by and ignore the fact that we are no longer the primary trading and commercial partner with all South American countries, except Ecuador and Colombia." They called for closer U.S. economic ties with the region, but stopped short of calling for any specific actions, such as the negotiation of new trade agreements.

The letter notes that China is discussing new trade agreements with South American countries, with Ecuador and China hoping to have a free trade agreement as early as March 2022, and Uruguay and China having one by the end of the year.

The letter also expresses concern about "heightened Chinese economic engagement with" Central America and the Caribbean, noting that: "Since 2019, China agreed to invest in several major infrastructure projects in El Salvador, including a soccer stadium and a water treatment plant"; in 2007, "China financed a soccer stadium in Costa Rica"; and China has also engaged in "vaccine diplomacy." The letter states that "[t]he U.S. should be gravely concerned with the influence and leverage this buys them, as high risk CCP backed companies are working to dominate 5G and the public security space."

The letter emphasizes national security, noting that "[e]conomic prosperity and solidified trading relationships is slowly becoming a matter of national security." While the letter's authors "understand concerns regarding human rights, rule of law, labor, and environmental issues in our neighboring countries," China "is no stranger to these same concerns, and yet we have continued to engage and trade with Beijing." "Surely," the letter states, "these concerning issues can be addressed while congruently investing, trading, and near-shoring job opportunities with likeminded Western Hemisphere nations."

The letter concludes by saying that "[w]e believe that it is of the highest priority for the U.S. to keep its relationships strong with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere." Otherwise, "[b]efore long, China will be significantly positioned to completely dominate Western Hemisphere economics, as China is already the top trading partner for practically all of Asia, Oceania, Eastern Europe, Africa, and, as stated, most of South America." Latin America and the Caribbean "should never live as an unnoticed shadow of the United States" and "[a] strong hemisphere economically benefits all." As we emerge from the pandemic to economically recover, the letter says, "we do not want to leave our Latin American and Caribbean friends behind," or else "they will begin to look elsewhere, and leave us behind."

The signatories of the letter are:

Eric A. "Rick" Crawford (R-AR)
Gary Palmer (R-AL)
John Katko (R-NY)
Patrick McHenry (R-NC)
Mark Green (R-TN)
Chris Stewart (R-UT)
Randy Weber (R-TX)
Bill Johnson (R-OH)
Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL)
Peter Meijer (R-MI)
Michael Guest (R-MS)
Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
William Timmons (R-SC)