Chinese FM attends China-CELAC Forum

World Today

(Front L-R) Chile’s Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet pose for the family picture of the Second Ministerial Meeting of the Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (China-CELAC) in Santiago, on January 22, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / CLAUDIO REYES)

A new road map for China-Latin American and Caribbean relations was drawn on Monday in Chile.The second ministerial meeting of the CELAC-China Forum brought together foreign ministers to discuss increasing trade, investment and cooperation with China.

CGTN’s Joel Richards reports.

“Chile is considered a good gateway for Chinese companies to enter the Latin American market,” Carlos Alvarez, director of the government agency Invest Chile said as he discussed the changing trend of Chinese investment in the country and the region. “Chinese companies are diversifying their interest in the Chilean economy.”

In Chile, that means investment in energy and infrastructure projects, and trade in copper, fruits and wine as well as financial services. Chile is one of the few countries in this region that does not run up a trade deficit with China.

Invest Chile will be opening a new office in Shanghai this year, to give this relationship a boost. Yet more broadly, China is increasingly interested in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean, as Monday’s CELAC-China Forum showed.

This was the first Ministerial meeting held in Latin America, the first taking place in Beijing in 2015. Ministers agreed on three key areas. The first was a commitment to multilateralism and a rejection of growing protectionism. The second point of consensus was on the road map of cooperation that includes infrastructure projects and runs until 2021. And there were also discussions as to how Latin America and the Caribbean hopes to form part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

There are talks over a fiber-optic cable crossing the Pacific Ocean to improve connectivity.

“Like in the rest of the world, Chileans are increasingly buying products from China just on their cell-phone,” said Chile’s foreign Minister, Heraldo Muñoz, who highlighted the importance of adding digital connections to land, sea and air.

In recent weeks in Chile, a Chinese-Chilean consortium also proposed a high-speed train link between the capital Santiago and the port city Valparaiso, the project costing an estimated US$1.6 billion. But many analysts suggest that what is needed is regional infrastructure that helps develop economies. There are projects under way, such as the tunnel under the Andes connecting Argentina and Chile, but many observers agree many more projects are required for this region’s economy to develop.

Both sides at the CELAC-China Forum agreed on the shared goal of increasing investment, trade, and cooperation.

“China has said something which is very important,” Chile’s Foreign Minsiter Heraldo Muñoz said. “which is that it wants to be Latin America and the Caribbean’s most trusted partner.”

Kevin Gallagher discusses China’s ties with Latin America