US losing ground to China, Russia in South American lithium rush – by Rafael Bernal (The Hill – July 19, 2022)

U.S. companies are hitting speedbumps in the race to win contracts to extract lithium in the Americas, particularly as the Chinese and Russian governments throw their weight around to land such agreements.

While the most easily exploitable currently known lithium deposits are in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, the United States has so far not been able to capitalize on its influence in the Western Hemisphere to support its companies.

“My friends in the hemisphere, and my own observations, tell me that the Chinese are ‘eating our lunch.’ Their diplomats are active, visible, responsive, and skilled. Just like U.S. officials used to be, except they are said to be more willing to use ‘financial incentives’ (bribes) to convince foreign decision-makers to ‘buy Chinese,’” said Otto Reich, who served as assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs under former President George W. Bush.

Lithium has a variety of industrial uses, but its importance has skyrocketed as the main component in modern rechargeable batteries.

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