Xi’s trip high­lights bustling Latin Amer­i­can ties

China Daily (USA) - - XI’S VISIT - By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s state visit to Ecuador, Peru and Chile re­flects China’s strong com­mit­ment to forg­ing strong re­la­tions with the re­gion, ac­cord­ing to US-based Latin Amer­i­can experts.

Xi will visit the three South Amer­i­can coun­tries from Nov 17-23 while also at­tend­ing the 24th APEC eco­nomic lead­ers’ meet­ing in Lima, Peru, from Nov 19-20.

“It has been im­pres­sive for the com­mit­ment China has made to Latin Amer­ica,” said Eric Farnsworth, vice-pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­cas So­ci­ety and Coun­cil of the Amer­i­cas, re­fer­ring to the fre­quent trips there by Chi­nese lead­ers, in­clud­ing in the last few years by Xi, Premier Li Ke­qiang and other se­nior Chi­nese gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

It will be Xi’s third trip to Latin Amer­ica since he be­came pres­i­dent in March 2013.

Farnsworth de­scribed X’s trip as a con­tin­u­a­tion of that com­mit­ment, say­ing the three coun­tries on Xi’s itin­er­ary all have a solid re­la­tion­ship with China.

R. Evan El­lis, a re­search pro­fes­sor of Latin Amer­i­can stud­ies at the Strate­gic Stud­ies In­sti­tute of the US Army War Col­lege, de­scribed the three coun­tries as “a very pos­i­tive story” for China.

The au­thor of many ar­ti­cles on China’s re­la­tions with Latin Amer­ica, El­lis be­lieves there are sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­ni­ties for China to strengthen its busi­ness re­la­tion­ships with Latin Amer­ica.

China is the largest trad­ing part­ner for Peru and Chile and the third largest for Ecuador.

Be­sides meet­ing lead­ers of the three South Amer­i­can na­tions, Xi will wit­ness the sign­ing of bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tive agree­ments, the re­lease of the joint state­ments and par­tic­i­pate in pub­lic diplo­macy, such as at­tend­ing the clos­ing cer­e­mony of the 2016 China-Latin Amer­ica Cul­tural Ex­change Year.

Rior­dan Roett, pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of the Latin Amer­i­can Stud­ies Pro­gram at the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity School of Ad­vanced In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, said all three coun­tries would wel­come Chi­nese in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture.

He said Chi­nese com­pa­nies are ac­tive in min­ing in Peru, but the ports and roads there are very poor. The sit­u­a­tion is the same for Ecuador and other coun­tries on the Pa­cific coast of Latin Amer­ica.

Farnsworth, who just re­turned from a trip in China, said China con­tin­ues to be a vi­tal mar­ket for South Amer­ica and its im­por­tance is grow­ing. He said that Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries are look­ing for a more di­ver­si­fied and bal­anced trade with China, which will in­clude not only pri­mary goods but also fin­ished goods. He noted that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has made it clear it sup­ports that ap­proach.

Farnsworth be­lieves that the three Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries hope to fur­ther tap the Chi­nese mar­ket, cit­ing the ex­am­ple of Chilean wine. Chile, the fifth­largest wine-pro­duc­ing na­tion, has be­come the sec­ond-largest sup­plier to China, ac­cord­ing to a Fi­nan­cial Times re­port on April 19.

Farnsworth said the suc­cess story of Chilean wine can be du­pli­cated by other sec­tors.

Roett agreed, say­ing that Latin Amer­i­cans would like to ex­port more to the Chi­nese mar­ket. “But Latin Amer­ica is not very good in iden­ti­fy­ing the prod­ucts that would be at­trac­tive in the Chi­nese mar­ket,” he said.

In his view, many Latin Amer­i­can economies are not com­pet­i­tive and pro­duc­tive. “They re­ally have to be­gin to find ways to be­come more com­pet­i­tive,” he said.

El­lis noted that there are lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties in Peru not just in min­ing, but in­fra­struc­ture as well as fish­eries and agri­cul­ture. In Ecuador, the ex­pec­ta­tion will con­tinue to be Chi­nese in­vest­ment in the oil sec­tor and hy­dro­elec­tric projects. The huge Coca Codo Sin­clair hy­dro­elec­tric plant, built by Si­no­hy­dro Corp in northeast Ecuador, be­gan op­er­at­ing in April.

El­lis said Chile also will seek Chi­nese in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture and pos­si­bly man­u­fac­tur­ing and value-added in­dus­tries as well as the ser­vice in­dus­try, in­clud­ing up­grad­ing a free trade agree­ment signed with China in 2005.

Eric Farnsworth

R. Evan El­lis

Rior­dan Roett

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