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China economy

US Congress, eyeing China, votes to overhaul how US lends money for foreign development

Backers of the new BUILD act argue that US lending needs to be more efficient to keep up with China’s increasing investment throughout the world

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 October, 2018, 3:22am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 October, 2018, 5:32pm

The US Senate on Wednesday passed legislation overhauling the way the federal government lends money for foreign development, a measure developed largely in response to China’s growing influence.

The bill, which had already been approved by the House of Representatives, will now be sent to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.

The Senate passed the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act (BUILD) as part of a bill authorising the Federal Aviation Administration, which passed by 93 to 6.

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The measure creates a new organisation, the US International Development Finance Corp, that consolidates the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and other government development organisations.

Those institutions lend money for projects in developing countries such as energy, ports and water infrastructure.

Backers of the bill argued that OPIC needed to be modernised and US lending in general made more efficient to keep up with China’s increasing investment throughout the world.

US officials have worried that countries have been at risk of giving up their sovereignty when they fund infrastructure projects with Chinese loans that they cannot pay back.

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OPIC, which aims to advance US interests by lending to overseas business ventures and makes money for the US Treasury, had come under fire from critics who say private banks are best suited to make investment decisions.

Ray Washburne, OPIC’s president, said in September that the ability to extend funding for such investments was expected to double once Congress approved the overhaul.

Trump last year proposed cutting funding for any new OPIC projects. However, the Trump administration this year has supported creation of the new entity.