SANTIAGO, China, June 28, CMC – In a bid to deepen strategic relations with Latin America and the Caribbean, China’s Premier Wen Jiabao has proposed the creation of a China-regional cooperation forum and regular dialogue with the troika of foreign ministers from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
Speaking at a meeting of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) based here, Wen said the focus of the cooperation should be on, among other things, food security, innovation, science and technology, and sustainable development. He said that the first meeting will be held this year.
Wen announced the creation of a cooperation fund for the region with an initial input of five billion US dollars to promote the development of Latin American manufacturing.
He also announced a credit line of ten billion dollars to boost infrastructure cooperation through the Bank of China, ECLAC said.
The Chinese premier also proposed creating various forms of intergovernmental consultation mechanisms, broadening contacts among parliaments, political parties and territorial governments, and strengthening the exchange of experiences on state governance and the handling of administrative matters.
And he called for the creation of fora for ministers of agriculture and on scientific and technological innovation.
Wen said Beijing will consider the UN economic commission’s proposal to hold periodic meetings with the region’s leaders.
According to an ECLAC report released to coincide with Wen’s visit, trade between China and the region is strikingly inter-industrial, as Latin America and the Caribbean exports mainly raw materials while importing Chinese manufactured goods.
The report said this trend reduces the potential for possible Sino-Latin American business partnerships and hampers a more effective integration of the region’s countries into the production chains of Asia-Pacific.
Only four of the region’s countries – all in South America – posted surpluses in their trade with China in 2011: Brazil, Chile, Venezuela and Peru. In all cases, this was due to sales of a smaller number of commodities, ECLAC said.
Premier Wen said China does not seek to have a trade surplus but wishes to have balanced trade with the region by increasing future imports of products with greater added value from Latin America and the Caribbean.
He said China expects the volume of trade with the region to be worth more than 400 billion dollars.
On Monday, Wen proposed a free trade deal between China and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
“We should carry out feasibility studies on a free trade area between China and Mercosur,” Wen said in Buenos Aires where he met Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and held talks via video conference with the presidents of Brazil and Uruguay.
“We share extensive common interests and we have great potential for further cooperation, which will increase the power of developing countries,” he added.
He also set a target to double the value of China’s trade with Mercosur to 200 billion dollars by 2016.
China is Mercosur’s second-largest trade partner and export market, importing mostly agricultural products, such as soya beans and meat.
“Latin America and the Caribbean’s growing economic and trade ties with China raise opportunities and concerns,” said ECLAC’s executive secretary Alicia Bárcena, adding that it was, therefore, essential to set up an agenda for dialogue and cooperation between the two parties.
She said the opportunities of the relationship with China included improved terms of trade, higher growth rates and additional resources to invest in education, infrastructure and innovation.
Wen said while China had experienced dramatic changes, it was still a developing country, adding that its cooperation policy and feelings of solidarity with Latin American and Caribbean countries remained unchanged.
The ECLAC document, “The People’s Republic of China and Latin America and the Caribbean: Dialogue and cooperation for the new challenges of the global economy,” examined recent trade and investment trends.
The Chinese premier returned to Beijing Thursday at the end of a Latin America swing which took him to Brazil for the Rio+20 environment summit, then to Uruguay, Argentina and Chile.