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Energy

China slams Pompeo for 'arrogance' during South America trip

PARAMARIBO, Suriname, Sept 18 (Reuters) - China’s embassy to Suriname on Friday accused U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of “smearing” Beijing, after Washington’s top diplomat critiqued Chinese companies’ business practices during the first stop on a four-country South America tour.

In a joint appearance with newly elected Surinamese President Chan Santokhi on Thursday, Pompeo contrasted “the quality of the products and services of American private companies” with Chinese companies, which he said often do not compete on a “fair and equitable basis.”

“We’ve watched the Chinese Communist Party invest in countries, and it all seems great at the front end and then it all comes falling down when the political costs connected to that becomes clear,” Pompeo said.

His comments came after a string of oil discoveries off the coast of Suriname, whose trade ties with China grew under the small South American country’s former President Desi Bouterse, a military strongman who oversaw an economic collapse and lost a re-election bid to Santokhi earlier this year.

China lent and invested heavily in resource-rich Latin America during the decade-long commodities boom that largely came to a close in 2014. The Trump administration has sought to highlight the heavy debts and economic deterioration those ties have left for close Chinese trade partners like Venezuela and Ecuador.

In its statement, the Chinese embassy to Paramaribo said, “any attempt to sow discord between China and Suriname is doomed to fail.

“We advise Mr. Pompeo to respect facts and truth, abandon arrogance and prejudice, stop smearing and spreading rumors about China,” the embassy said.

Santokhi told reporters on Thursday that Suriname’s relationship with China was not a topic of conversation in his meeting with Pompeo.

“It is not a question of making choices,” he said. (Reporting by Ank Kuipers in Paramaribo, Suriname; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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