China, Lat. America launch new trade forum

Updated: 2014-03-10 07:14

By ZHANG FAN in Beijing (China Daily Latin America)

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China has high hopes for further deepening China-Latin America relations, which are facing a "historic opportunity for development" this year, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the Sixth BRICS Summit to be held in Brazil in 2014 and will pay concurrent official visits to several Latin American countries, Wang told a press conference on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature.

"China will also help to launch a forum with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) this year and hold its first ministerial meeting," Wang said.

CELAC's second summit, held in Cuba in January, adopted a special statement on the establishment of a China-CELAC forum as a way to promote overall cooperation between the two parties.

President Xi welcomed this outcome and sent congratulatory messages to the leaders of Cuba and Costa Rica — the previous and current holders of CELAC's rotating presidency respectively — expressing China's willingness to help establish a platform for more comprehensive partnerships between China and Latin America.

"The forum will be a major breakthrough in the history of China-Latin America relations. I am very hopeful over their development in 2014," Wang told the media, adding that Chinese football fans must also be "full of expectations" about this year's Brazil FIFA World Cup.

"The best line to describe the relationship between China and Latin American and Caribbean countries is 'a heartfelt friend afar brings a distant land near'," Wang added.

Observers say Wang's words clearly show that China is attaching more importance to developing its relationship with the region — which used to focus mainly on economical cooperation — into a more comprehensive one.

"The interdependence between China and Latin American countries is getting stronger, especially in the last 30 years with the rapid economical development that is happening," said Chen Duqing, former Chinese ambassador to Brazil. "Latin America is a large market with profound natural resources, and many regional countries are at a stage of development similar to China's. So there are many areas the two sides can cooperate on.

"Take Brazil for example. China can help with its infrastructure construction, which has already become an obstacle to Brazil's economical development. On the other hand, Brazil can share its technology in new energy, which is important for China's sustainable development," Chen added.

However, economic cooperation between China and the region is far from adequate. Chen said China and Latin American countries can also cooperate in other areas, such as cultural exchange and politics.

"Latin American countries, such as the G20 member states Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, share many common ideas with China in establishing a new international financial order. They also support China's stand on climate change as being of 'common but differentiated responsibilities'," Chen said.

Zhou Zhiwei, a researcher on Brazilian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said establishing the China-CELAC forum also shows China's pursuit of a more comprehensive relationship with the region.

"The forum can serve as a platform to enhance mutual understanding and political trust between China and Latin American countries, which is necessary to develop practical cooperation. A better communication mechanism can also help discover more potential cooperation opportunities," Zhou said.

China has established several forums with different regions such as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, which all have contributed to the better communication between China and those regions.

"Like other forums, the China-CELAC forum and ministerial meetings can help to better plan future cooperation between China and Latin American countries and the local economy can greatly benefit," Zhou said.

"Some regional countries may worry that China's further involvement within this area will reduce their own regional influence. This is not necessary because the cooperation between China and Latin American countries will be developed with the principle of mutual trust and respect," he added.