No threat in rivalry with China: Obama

No threat in rivalry with China: Obama

PRETORIA - Reuters
The United States does not feel threatened by the growth of trade and investment in Africa by China and other emerging powers, U.S. President Barack Obama said on June 27.

Suggestions that he has allowed China to steal a march over the United States in doing business with Africa have dogged Obama’s three-nation swing through the continent, but he said the increased Chinese engagement was beneficial for all.

“I don’t feel threatened by it. I feel it’s a good thing,” Obama told a news conference during a visit to South Africa.

The more countries invest in Africa, the more the world’s least developed continent can be integrated into the global economy, the first African-American U.S. president said.

“I want everybody playing in Africa. The more the merrier.”

China has greatly expanded its reach in Africa since the start of the new century. It overtook the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner in 2009, a February report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) showed.

China’s advantage in trade stems mostly from how much it sells to Africa. Chinese exports to the continent in 2011 were almost triple the level of U.S. exports.

When it comes to investment flows, however, the picture is different. Data for 2007-2011 suggest U.S. foreign investment flows to the region were larger than China’s, the GAO said.

“China’s role as an investor, aid donor and financier is not outsized,” Johns Hopkins University China scholar Deborah Brautigam wrote recently.

“Although Western countries fret about China’s growing role in Africa, the United States alone disbursed more official finance to African countries than China did in 2010.”

Still, China’s influence looms large over the continent, partly because it has been so aggressive in its courtship.

Obama’s visit to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania will bring to four the number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa that the U.S. president has visited in the last four years.