China, Costa Rican relation visionary
Updated: 2015-01-12 04:57
By Zhang Yuchen in Beijing(China Daily Latin America)
President Xi Jinping talks with Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Tuesday. The leaders witnessed the signing of a series of agreements between the countries. Wu Zhiyi / China Daily
The new blooming relationship between China and Costa Rica is tied to future investments, said the president of the Central American country after the conclusion of the first joint meeting between Latin American and Caribbean nations and China, held in Beijing last week.
Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis said in an exclusive interview with China Daily on Jan 10 that more projects involving cooperation on infrastructure and investment will take place between the two countries.
"The vision of China's president seeing Latin America as a continent of hope and China itself a country of hope makes China take the lead in the new moment of Latin America," said President Solis. "This is the true transcendence of this moment in China-Latin America relations."
Two major projects in the short term will bring to light China's support in Costa Rica, including its involvement in the country's logistic corridor that provides a link to the border with Nicaragua and the port of Moin, the electric intercity train and airports.
The other two are set projects being developed with Chinese participation - one is the road between the Costa Rican capital of San Jose and the Moin, port of Caribbean province Limon, and a proposed oil refinery.
During the meeting between Solis and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Jan 7, Solis expressed his administration's commitment to broaden cooperation with China. The two leaders announced the statements including the strategic partnership of the two countries.
On the same day, Xi gave the Costa Rica extra $24 million in the form of grants and support. China and Costa Rica agreed to start joint feasibility studies for the creation of a special economic zone in Costa Rica, to try to stimulate the economy of less developed areas of the country.
The feasibility study will be completed by the end of October. Cars and solar panels could eventually be produced in the zone.
For 25 years, Costa Rica has developed the Free Trade Zones, but it has shifted to schemes such as Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area, which Solis visited on Jan 9.
The building of the zones is aimed at helping the less developed areas in Costa Rica and attracting Chinese investment. Investing in those suburban areas has been overlooked by the Chinese investors, said Alexander Mora, Costa Rica's foreign trade minister. But the location of the economic zones has not been determined.
China launched free trade talks with Costa Rica in 2007. The free trade agreement took effect in 2010, and Costa Rica's exports to China increased from $195 million in 2011 to $371 million in 2013.
In 2015, Costa Rica's ambition is to raise its export to China by 25 percent.
"If the trends continue to develop as they are developing today, in less than 20 years, China is going to be the first trade partners of Latin America, which is something unheard before," said Solis. "We are going to build a roadmap for four years so that we can move little by little."
But fears exist among the differences in scale between Costa Rica and China. Even if the possibilities exist, size counts at least in trade.
"We don't know each other well enough yet, so we will move slowly but certainly to reach certain goals along the way," said the president.
Another fear is due to not fully understanding the new nature of the development. In his speech at the Renmin University of China, a leading Chinese university in social science, where he was granted an honorary doctorate in law and honorary advisor of Latin American Studies Center at the university on Jan 7, Solis expressed his concerns about the integration of the Latin American community, which "has been oversimplified".
"The nature of CELAC is not an organization, rather a community that gears the true sensation and space for the dialogue and cooperation. It is the real spirit of integration, a place we can all feel comfortable, without delimitating the difference, but increasing our similarities," he told China Daily.
"We should play as an orchestra, as a whole, with each other's differences and uniqueness."