(Bloomberg) -- The US needs new tools in order to build on its network of free-trade agreements and compete with China in Latin America, a top Biden administration official said Thursday.

The administration intends to strengthen the US position in the region through changes to the Development Finance Corporation, its development agency for lower- and middle-income countries, according to Juan Gonzalez, the US National Security Council senior director for the Western Hemisphere.

Pursuit of that goal includes supporting changes at the Inter-American Development Bank, he said at a conference in Washington hosted by CAF, another development bank for Latin America; the Inter-American Dialogue, a policy institute; and the Organization of American States.

“We are currently trying to compete with the tools of the past in a field where China and other countries are using tools of the future,” Gonzalez said, citing the speed with which China has built infrastructure in the region in recent years. “We have to develop tools to compete in that space. Right now, the tools we have are not enough,” he said.

Gonzalez said that while China is the top trade partner for many countries in South America, the US is the top source for private sector investment, and that many Chinese investments don’t create capacities for nations in ways that help them develop industries and compete for themselves. 

The US also demands transparency, respect for norms of human rights, and has found a receptive listener in countries in the region, he added.

“We need to focus on promoting the security and prosperity of Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.