Belt and Road Initiative generating opportunities for Latin America

Belt and Road Initiative generating opportunities for Latin America

China’s Belt and Road Initiative offers “many benefits” and “more investment” for Latin America, according to the head of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Regional countries are beginning to assess the possibility of participating in this “great project,” in which China “has a lot to offer” in the areas of trade and infrastructure, said ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Barcena.

“I am a big believer in the Belt and Road Initiative,” Barcena told Xinhua during a visit to Mexico City, adding “it would draw more investment in connectivity, mobility to the Industry 4.0 digital agenda, and all of that.”

In Chile, where ECLAC is headquartered, Chinese investment is having a positive impact on digital communications, as well as scientific and technological cooperation, she added.

While regional trade with China has grown nearly 200-fold in less than a decade, “the interesting thing” about the initiative is that it “redirects a large part of the relationship with China towards infrastructure,” said Barcena.

In the five years since China unveiled the innovative global development scheme, the initiative has gradually evolved from a concept into concrete actions, and won worldwide recognition, including in Latin America, a region traditionally lacking in both infrastructure and the financial resources to build it.

At this year’s Second Ministerial Meeting of the China-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Forum, held in Chile’s capital Santiago, countries approved a special declaration endorsing the initiative.

China has also invited ECLAC to be part of the initiative’s board of directors, said Barcena, in recognition of the agency’s role as a bridge between the two regions.

As a step toward greater cooperation between Latin America and China, El Salvador this week announced it was establishing diplomatic ties with the Asian giant, Barcena said.

China has floated “very interesting” proposals to develop key industries, such as energy, construction and scientific innovation, through trade, investment and financial cooperation, said Barcena.

According to China’s customs authority, trade between China and Latin America and the Caribbean reached some 260 billion USD in 2017, an increase of 18.8% year-on-year.

China’s Ministry of Commerce reports indicate that Chinese investment in Latin America has surpassed 200 billion dollars, turning the region into the second leading destination for Chinese overseas investment.