The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena—speaking at the World Economic Forum being held in the Swiss city of Davos—encouraged the region’s countries and China to cooperate in key areas such as infrastructure, energy and, especially, agriculture, since the regional potential for agricultural and food production could meet the Asian country’s demands.
The senior United Nations official participated on Tuesday, January 17 in the session entitled China’s Pivot to World Markets.
The other speakers on the panel, which was moderated by Hu Shuli, Editor-in-Chief of the Chinese communications group Caixin Media, included Li Xiaopeng, Vice-Chairman of China Merchants Group; Liu Liehong, President and CEO of China Electronics Corporation; Zhang Yi-Chen, Chairman and CEO of CITIC Capital Holdings Limited; and Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics at the Stern School of Business, New York University.
“We must expand and diversify our economic relations,” the regional organization’s most senior representative emphasized during the dialogue, referencing a document published by this institution to coincide with a visit last November by Chinese President Xi Jinping to ECLAC’s headquarters, where he participated in a media summit with the aim of bringing about greater cultural rapport with Latin America and the Caribbean.
As Alicia Bárcena explained, China has delineated a strategy of links with the region based on trade, investments, financing and cooperation, with six priority areas: infrastructure, transportation, energy and natural resources, industry, science and technology, and agriculture. In this last sector, China, with 1.3 billion inhabitants and just 7% of the world’s arable land and 6% of its water resources, represents a market with great potential for Latin America, she stressed.
This region, through the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), has also taken steps toward building a strategic trade relationship with China, Alicia Bárcena stated.
The Executive Secretary highlighted that the trade of goods between Latin America and the Caribbean and China expanded by 23 times between 2000 and 2013, although two years of declines followed that. Despite this, the Asian giant displaced the European Union in 2014 as the region’s second-biggest trading partner, exceeded only by the United States. However, the export basket is concentrated in five products that together represented 69% of the value of the region’s shipments to the Asian country in 2015.
In the area of investments, she stressed the quantitative leap that the Asian country experienced in 2010, when in that year alone estimated Chinese Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Latin America and the Caribbean rose to 14 billion dollars, double the cumulative figure from the prior two decades (1990-2009). As an example, she indicated that in Ecuador those flows are aimed at companies that develop technology, while in other countries, such as Peru and Chile, they are more related to extractive industries.
During her participation at the World Economic Forum (WEF), Alicia Bárcena also took part on Tuesday, January 17 in a session devoted to Latin American development strategy, along with Panama’s Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Isabel de Saint Malo, and Argentina’s Foreign Minister, Susanna Malcorra, in preparation for the World Economic Forum on Latin America, due to take place in Buenos Aires on April 5-7.
Bárcena highlighted the opportunity for Latin America to bolster intraregional trade and strengthen existing integration schemes, such as the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur, in addition to strengthening convergence between the two.
Today she participated in a panel for the Global Statesman Award, which was given to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos during a ceremony that was also attended by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Borge Brende, and the founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab.
Bárcena also took part in panels on policies for inclusive productivity and on economic growth and social inclusion. In this last session, in which she presided as Co-Chair, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary underlined the importance of strengthening innovation through public-private alliances that allow experiences to be shared so as to foster productivity with social inclusion.
Her activities at the WEF will continue this Thursday, January 19, when she will be the speaker at a session on the impact of the fourth industrial revolution on competitiveness, and another dialogue on the regional challenges regarding the digital economy (Latin America 4.0) and the role of extractive industries in a context of collaboration for the 2030 Agenda. Meanwhile, on Friday, January 20, she will participate in a panel that will review the efforts by countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).