Pompeo says China’s loans to Africa create unsustainable debt burden

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gives a press conference on relations with China and Iran, and on combating the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Washington, United States, on June 24, 2020. Mangel Ngan / Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday blasted China’s policy on lending to African countries, reiterating Washington’s accusations that it creates an unsustainable debt burden.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a speech at a China-Africa summit last week that Chinese financial institutions should consult with African countries to work out loan deals with sovereign guarantees, Fitch Ratings said in a report. earlier Wednesday.

Xi also told the summit that Beijing will exempt some African countries from repaying zero-interest loans due at the end of 2020 and that it is ready to prioritize African countries once COVID-19 vaccines are ready to be released. used.

Pompeo, a persistent critic of China, accused Beijing of “more empty promises and tired platitudes.”

In a statement, Pompeo said Xi did not promise real transparency and accountability for China’s role in the “outbreak” of the novel coronavirus, which began in China, and accused Beijing of creating “a burden of unsustainable debt “in Africa.

Noting that China was “by far the largest bilateral creditor to African governments,” Pompeo said most US foreign aid was given in the form of grants rather than loans, “to promote transparent and managed economic growth. by the private sector which benefits all parties “.

Fitch said China’s commitment to ease the debt burden owed to it by some emerging market governments could ease short-term liquidity pressures in countries struggling with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

He said that Kenya, Maldives, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Pakistan, Angola, Laos, Mozambique, Congo and Zambia were among the countries where a significant portion of their debt to China was eligible for relief.

Beijing has pledged to participate in the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) of the Group of 20 Great Nations (G20), which temporarily suspends the repayment of the debt of 77 developing countries maturing between May and December.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao

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