Ecuador’s am­bas­sador sees room for growth

Both sides agree ties at ‘best stage’ ever af­ter strate­gic part­ner­ship es­tab­lished

China Daily (USA) - - TOP NEWS - By WANG QINGYUN wangqingyun@chi­

Re­la­tions be­tween Ecuador and China have been ex­em­plary in terms of South-South co­op­er­a­tion, and the coun­tries should work on re­al­iz­ing greater po­ten­tial in the ties, said Jose Maria Borja Lopez, the Ecuadorean am­bas­sador to China.

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s visit to Ecuador, beginning on Thurs­day, will be the first by a Chi­nese pres­i­dent to the South Amer­i­can coun­try since diplo­matic re­la­tions were es­tab­lished in 1980.

Sev­eral agree­ments, in­clud­ing on fi­nanc­ing, pub­lic in­for­ma­tion and tech­ni­cal co­op­er­a­tion, are ex­pected to be signed dur­ing the visit, ac­cord­ing to Borja.

“Ecuador found in China a fun­da­men­tal ally to carry out its de­vel­op­ment plans at a time it was most needed,” said the am­bas­sador, adding that Chi­nese in­vestors in Ecuador are ef­fi­cient and have met de­vel­op­ment re­quire­ments of the coun­try.

Chi­nese com­pa­nies have joined Ecuadorean projects in oil, trans­porta­tion and hy­dropower.

Ac­cord­ing to Borja, the Latin Amer­i­can coun­try, for which oil is a pil­lar in­dus­try, has trusted Chi­nese com­pa­nies with “im­por­tant oil fields”.

Another ex­am­ple of in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment is the Chi­nese-in­vested Coca Codo Sin­clair hy­dropower plant.

The largest hy­dropower project in-Ecuador, it is ex­pected to in­crease the coun­try’s elec­tric­ity sup­ply by about 30 per­cent when fully op­er­a­tional, ac­cord­ing to the eco­nomic and com­mer­cial coun­selor’s of­fice of China’s em­bassy in Ecuador.

“Over the past nine years, we have strength­ened co­op­er­a­tion, es­pe­cially in ar­eas of tech­ni­cal co­op­er­a­tion, tech­nol­ogy trans­fer and fi­nanc­ing,” said Borja, adding that China is “a strong ally in the in­fra­struc­ture projects un­der­taken by the Ecuadorean gov­ern­ment”.

Bi­lat­eral re­la­tions have en­tered what both sides de­scribed as “the best stage in history” since af­ter they es­tab­lished a strate­gic part­ner­ship dur­ing Ecuadorean Pres­i­dent Rafael Cor­rea’s visit to China in Jan­uary last year.

Among the agree­ments the two coun­tries have signed is a deal on mu­tual visa ex­emp­tions that took ef­fect in Au­gust. Un­der the agree­ment, Chi­nese tourists are now able to stay in Ecuador for up to 90 days a year with­out a visa.

Borja said the deal has helped at­tract more Chi­nese tourists to the An­dean coun­try, and “this year will end with more than 17,000 Chi­nese tourists vis­it­ing Ecuador”.

China-Ecuador co­op­er­a­tion has even more po­ten­tial, the am­bas­sador said.

“A key co­op­er­a­tion el­e­ment should be the train­ing of hu­man resources, which trans­lates to an in­crease in schol­ar­ships for Ecuadorean stu­dents, as well as the op­por­tu­nity for more young peo­ple to learn Man­darin Chi­nese and about the Chi­nese ex­pe­ri­ence of de­vel­op­ment,” Borja said.

In ad­di­tion, he said, Ecuador would like to in­crease ex­ports to, and cut the trade deficit with, China.

Co­op­er­a­tion with China is “sig­nif­i­cant not only for Ecuador, but for other Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries”, and such co­op­er­a­tion “will con­tinue to be fun­da­men­tal” for the de­vel­op­ment of Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries, the am­bas­sador said.

The world is still won­der­ing what the im­pact of Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion asUS pres­i­dent will be on dif­fer­ent coun­tries and re­gions. But go­ing by Trump’s re­marks dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, he may han­dle some of the world’s key se­cu­rity is­sues dif­fer­ently from the Barack Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. Un­der Trump, theUnited States may fo­cus more on do­mes­tic is­sues and pay less at­ten­tion to for­eign pol­icy.

If that were to hap­pen, the US would have to make ma­jor ad­just­ments to its global re­source al­lo­ca­tion, both on the eco­nomic and mil­i­tary fronts.

To honor his prom­ise to im­prove do­mes­tic in­fra­struc­ture, cre­ate 25 mil­lion jobs in the US and fight ter­ror­ism in a more rad­i­cal way, Trump may choose to spend less on pro­ject­ing US power in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion and use the funds and resources so saved to fight ter­ror­ism in theMid­dle East and ad­dress do­mes­tic woes. That will mean a ma­jor de­par­ture from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion that has painstak­ingly pushed its “pivot to Asia” strat­egy by fo­cus­ing 60 per­cent of its mil­i­tary strength on the Asia-Pa­cific while phas­ing out its mil­i­tary pres­ence in theMid­dle East.

For Asia-Pa­cific coun­tries, es­pe­cially Ja­pan and the Repub­lic of Korea, they still don’t know what to ex­pect from the next US ad­min­is­tra­tion as Trump has said dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign thatWash­ing­ton’s al­lies in the re­gion must do more to de­fend them­selves and con­trib­ute more to main­tain US mil­i­tary pres­ence in their ter­ri­to­ries.

Yet the US’ strate­gic con­trac­tion glob­ally will not be as bad as some fear. On the con­trary, it could help right the wrongs the US has done in re­cent years in its “war on ter­ror” and mil­i­tary ma­neu­ver­ings in the Asia-Pa­cific.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­luc­tance to ac­tively fight ter­ror­ists and ex­trem­ists, es­pe­cially the Is­lamic State ter­ror­ist group in theMid­dle East, has been widely crit­i­cized. And theUS’ in­ter­fer­ence pol­icy in the re­gion, cou­pled with the covert arm­ing of rebel forces to or­ches­trate a regime change in coun­tries like Libya and Syria, is largely to blame for the rise in ter­ror­ism and ex­trem­ism in the re­gion. Hence, the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion should adopt a harder line on ter­ror­ism and clean up the mess theUS has helped cre­ate in the Mid­dle East.

In the Asia-Pa­cific, Obama’s “pivot to Asia” strat­egy, a move widely seen as in­tended to con­tain China’s rise, has not only soured re­la­tions with China but also height­ened ten­sions in the South China Sea, asWash­ing­ton has used the mar­itime dis­putes be­tween China and some South­east Asian coun­tries to beef up its mil­i­tary pres­ence in the re­gion.

TheUS is not a party to any of the South China Sea dis­putes, and its in­ter­fer­ence has harmed re­gional co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east AsianNa­tions and China and other re­gional part­ners.

Worse, coun­tries in the re­gion were forced to take sides in the dis­putes and thus be dis­tracted from far more im­por­tant is­sues of re­gional de­vel­op­ment and in­te­gra­tion. Had the South China Sea and East China Sea re­mained peace­ful, coun­tries in the re­gion could have de­voted more en­ergy into trans­lat­ing the re­gional de­vel­op­ment blue­print into ac­tion and thus con­tribut­ing more to global eco­nomic re­cov­ery.

The ten­sions cre­ated by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion over the South China Sea dis­putes have served no­body’s in­ter­ests. And the de­vel­op­ments of the past years show the “pivot toAsia” strat­egy has been coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, even in serv­ingUS in­ter­ests.

The Philip­pines, a closeWash­ing­ton ally and used by the US to pro­voke China over mar­itime dis­putes, has made a U-turn by choos­ing to im­prove ties with China and dis­tanc­ing it­self from the US.

As China and the US both have high stakes in the peace­ful de­vel­op­ment of the Asia- Pa­cific, they ought to co­op­er­ate with, rather than con­front, each other to build peace and sta­bil­ity in the re­gion. The in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion should make the right choice.

Yet the US’ strate­gic con­trac­tion glob­ally will not be as bad as some fear. On the con­trary, it could help right the wrongs the US has done in re­cent years in its “war on ter­ror” and mil­i­tary ma­neu­ver­ings in the Asia-Pa­cific.

Jose Maria Borja Lopez

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