Forum to elevate China-Latin America ties

Updated: 2015-01-02 19:14

By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington(China Daily USA)

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China is seeking to further strengthen its cooperation with Latin American nations by holding a senior level meeting in Beijing next week.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony of the first ministerial meeting of the Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily briefing in Beijing on Wednesday.

The forum, to be held on Jan 8-9, will be attended by foreign ministries and top representatives of China and CELAC members. They will include Costa Rica President Luis Guillermo Solis, Ecuador President Rafael Correa Delgado, Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie and Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro Moros.

Costa Rica holds the CELAC rotating chairmanship, and will be succeeded by Ecuador. The two nations, together with Cuba and the Bahamas, make up the CELAC Quartet.

Besides attending the forum, the leaders from Costa Rica and Ecuador will also pay official visits to China next week.

The China-CELAC Forum was officially launched in July 2014, during President Xi's visit to Latin America. Xi met with leaders of Latin America and Caribbean states in Brasilia. The second CELAC Summit held in January 2014 adopted the Special Declaration on the Establishment of the China-CELAC Forum.

"It is a common wish shared by both sides to establish the Forum and carry out comprehensive cooperation. It follows the trend of the times featuring cross-regional cooperation in a multi-polar world," spokeswoman Hua said in a briefing on Dec 29.

At the Beijing meeting, China and CELAC members will talk about the principles guiding overall cooperation, key areas of cooperation, the building of forum mechanism and other topics and adopt relevant outcome documents in the spirit of equality, mutual benefit, win-win cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, according to Hua.

Ties between China and Latin American and Caribbean nations have grown rapidly in the past decade, with China becoming a major trading partner for many countries in the region.

Xi's trip to the region last July, when he visited Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba and attended the BRICS summit, has been widely been regarded as a sign of China's high priority in boosting relations with the region.

Xi also visited the region from late May to early June of 2013, going to Trinidad, Costa Rica and Mexico before going to California to meet US President Barack Obama for the shirt-sleeves summit at the Annenberg retreat of Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California.

As China's vice-president in June 2011, Xi also visited Cuba, Uruguay and Chile. In 2009, he went to Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil.

Just as officials of the 33-member CELAC are heading to Beijing, Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao, as a special representative for Xi, attended the second-term inauguration ceremony of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff from Jan 1-2. Rousseff was re-elected in October for another four-year term.

While many have interpreted CELAC, which was launched in Caracas, Venezuela, in 2011 and does not include the US and Canada, as a challenge to the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS), OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said last year while attending a CELAC summit that the organization is no threat, but rather a useful component of the OAS.

China has been a permanent observer of the OAS for the past decade. On Dec 12, Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai, on behalf of the Chinese government, signed two China-OAS agreements with Insulza to further expand cooperation.

Under the Second Additional Protocol to the Agreement for the China-OAS Cooperation Fund and the Memorandum of Understanding for Human Development and Scholarships Program, the Chinese government will increase its pledge to the cooperation fund and increase scholarships for students from OAS members.

"We are not just observing, we have promoted high-level exchanges between China and the OAS and taken an active part in OAS activities," Cui said at the signing ceremony.

"President Xi Jinping visited Latin America in July and launched officially with Latin American leaders the China-CELAC forum. It symbolizes a new historical stage in China-Latin America relations," Cui said.

Insulza praised what he said was China's important and constructive role in the region and the world as well as China's support for OAS' activities on integral development, child education, gender equality, trade and competitiveness, sustainable development and environmental protection.

He described the signing as "recognition of China's cooperation with the OAS."