China's investments show importance of Brazil: expert

Updated: 2015-06-02 05:32

By BRUNA GAMA in Rio de Janeiro(China Daily Latin America)

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The importance of Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang's visit to Brazil and the close alliance between the two countries is reflected in the volume of Chinese projects and investments announced during his visit, reportedly $53 billion, according to an expert on Brazilian and Asian affairs.

Severino Cabral, president of the Brazilian Institute for China and Asia Pacific Studies, said the agreements consolidate and broaden economic and financial relations between Brazil and China. The Chinese investments in logistics and infrastructure also will help the Brazilian government, which is facing political and economic problems, he told China Daily.

Cabral said the proposed Transoceanic Railway project to connect Brazil and Peru was one of the highlights of Li's visit. It would give Brazil,Latin America's biggest economy,a path to Pacific Ocean ports and a much shorter route for its exports to Asia.

Cabral said Li's visits to Colombia, Chile and Peru after he stopped in Brazil were important because theyare the three South American members of the Pacific Alliance, a trade bloc of much interest to the United States. The visits will likely strengthen those countries' relations with Brazil, other South American countries and China, he said.

Closer relations with China represent a shift for Latin America, and, more specifically, South America, Cabral said. Though historically the US has had the largest influence on Latin America, the relationship has been a troubled one, he noted.

"The US has been, for the past century, the most influential country in Latin America. But they closed their eyes to that relationship some time ago, and it became complex and almost one of geopolitical friction," he said.

Cabral believes that the US has never really invested in the region as it did, for example, in the reconstruction of Europe and Japan after World War II, because it didn't want to fuel the growth of powerful neighboring countries. China doesn't have that problem because it is located on the other side of the globe, and having strong relations with China and the option to seek Chinese investments changes the dynamic of the region, he said.

"The BRICS Bank shows that now we have more space; before, we were conditioned to the World Bank and the IMF, but now there is a bigger partner, from outside the continent, which does not believe that a growing neighbor can be a threat," Cabral said.

He said that China's investments in the regionwillcontribute to better relations between China and Latin America and for a tighter relationship between South American countries.

Brazil can play a key role in that integration, Cabral believes, because the country has a history of more than 100 years without any conflict with its neighbors, and with Brazil's ties with Africa, that integration can expand even more.

"Brazil tends to have a leading role in the 21st century, and as China is another country destined to have a leading role, we can see clearly that the strategic partnership between Brazil and China has a global dimension," he said.

Though Brazilian authorities lack a long-term vision and a strong national policy for growth, the country has the potential to be a "China of the Americas", growing more and helping its neighbors in the process so that by developing Brazil, the country manages to develop all of South America, he said.