US President Joe Biden ’s pick to lead Washington’s international development finance agency said on Wednesday that, if confirmed, he would examine the body’s funding of overseas projects using Chinese-sourced solar panels, amid concern over allegations of forced labour in China’s far-west. Scott Nathan, a former Barack Obama administration official, made the commitment during an appearance before the Senate foreign relations committee as it weighed his nomination to lead the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC). Eighteen of the 21 solar projects currently funded by the DFC source solar panels from China, according to the committee’s lead Republican, Senator James Risch of Idaho, who was briefed on the matter by DFC leadership. Asked by Risch whether he would follow up on an October letter to the DFC in which the senator called for the agency to shun Chinese-manufactured solar panels, Nathan responded: “Absolutely. Taxpayer money should never be used to support forced labour.” The US administration, along with other governments and rights groups, has accused Beijing of subjecting Uygurs and other ethnic minority groups in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region to mass internment and forced labour - charges the Chinese government denies. While concerns initially focused on the textiles and agricultural sectors, in June the Biden administration extended import and export bans to a number of Chinese manufacturers of polysilicon, a key component in the production of solar panels. Xinjiang’s solar industry needs a rare form of quartz — and the US is selling Beyond questions around forced labour, China loomed large over much of Nathan’s exchanges with senators on Wednesday, as members of the committee highlighted China’s huge investment in overseas infrastructure projects and the potential role that the DFC could play in offering an alternative. “We know the challenges our nation faces as we compete with China and other adversaries in terms of economic development,” said Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, who spoke before the foreign relations committee in support of Nathan’s confirmation. The DFC facilitates private sector investment in projects largely in developing countries, and is seen as one arm of Washington’s response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The agency was created during Donald Trump’s presidency, merging a number of government bodies and doubling the total investment cap of the corporation’s predecessor from US$29 billion to US$60 billion. DFC’s establishment came as the Trump administration stepped up efforts to counter China’s overseas influence, particularly Beijing’s massive investments in infrastructure through the sprawling, multi-continent Belt and Road Initiative . Unveiled by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative has drawn criticism for its use of Chinese labourers over the local workforce, its impact on the environment, and the levels of debt in which poorer, recipient countries are left. Biden has embraced bipartisan concerns about the programme, and has pushed allies in the G7 to offer a competing infrastructure investment plan for developing countries known as the Build Back Better World initiative . China was the obvious subtext to many of Nathan’s remarks to senators about the DFC’s mission on Wednesday. US global lending banks are given new life to battle an aggressive China The agency provided a “clear alternative to state directed investments by authoritarian governments”, said Nathan. “While investing in private sector companies and projects, DFC can insist on transparency, rule of law, financial sustainability, and high environmental and labour standards.” That assessment echoed remarks by the DFC’s leader during the Trump administration, Adam Boehler, who told the Financial Times in January that the agency was created so that “no single authoritarian country had undue influence over another country”. While US officials have assailed efforts by Beijing to bolster its geopolitical clout through overseas infrastructure investments, the finance corporation’s programmes come with their own conditions. A US$2.8 billion deal the agency made with Ecuador earlier this year to refinance the country’s debt to China was predicated on Quito agreeing to join the Trump administration’s “Clean Network” initiative, a pact to keep Chinese providers out of 5G telecommunications infrastructure. Nathan was nominated to serve as the body’s chief executive officer in August. His resume includes almost two decades as an investor, followed by years in the Obama administration as special representative for commercial and business affairs at the State Department, and later as a senior White House official overseeing government programmes at the Office of Management and Budget. Citing those experiences, John Podesta, the veteran political strategist and former Clinton White House chief of staff, said at the time of Nathan’s nomination that he had “excelled in every arena critical to the development mission of the DFC”.