Cooperation between China and Latin America and the Caribbean offers an opportunity to reduce global asymmetries and support a transformative, inclusive economic recovery that promotes sustainable development in line with the 2030 Agenda, affirmed Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), at the closing session of the II High-Level CELAC-China Forum and the VI China-LAC Think Tanks Forum.
“The COVID-19 crisis has deepened global asymmetries between developed and developing countries. This forces us to rethink multilateralism and, in this context, cooperation between China and CELAC, in order to provide collective responses to the combined effects of the pandemic, climate change and the growing inequalities in income, wealth, the digital economy and access to financing,” said the senior United Nations official during the closing of this two-day event that brought together government representatives, university experts and international officials.
The meeting was co-organized by ECLAC with the Latin American Institute and the Bureau of International Cooperation of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, the Chinese Institute of International Studies, the China Foundation for International Studies and the Association of Universities of Latin America and the Caribbean (UDUAL) and with support from Mexico’s Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE) and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
During her remarks, Alicia Bárcena underscored that China and CELAC are entering a new era of cooperation but also in a very complex global context.
“Latin America and the Caribbean must seek to maintain, cultivate and deepen constructive, harmonious and respectful relations with all the actors in the international system, while setting our compass on our own interests in regards to the urgent task of constructing our development route,” she highlighted.
The high official added that the region needs to urgently make a leap in terms of quality innovation and productive diversification, and thus leave behind the path of low investment and scarce technological progress, to overcome poverty and inequality.
“The huge pending task for Latin America and the Caribbean is to make progress toward greater integration with a more pragmatic vision to enable the 32 CELAC countries to act jointly on strategic issues, such as access to and production of vaccines, the digital economy, protection of biodiversity, and climate action; and coordinate their efforts around the rules of trade to foster quality foreign direct investment from China and achieve better conditions of international financing, particularly for middle-income countries,” she asserted.
The Executive Secretary of ECLAC stressed that China has a long-term vision and clarity as to its horizons and goals. It has achieved advances in technological innovation and overcome poverty quickly and effectively.
“For this reason, we believe it is very important to study and fully understand the One Road One Route Initiative and assess the participation of the countries of this region in formats to be decided by each – aside from the 19 countries that have already joined the initiative – whether that be to advance in digital, aeronautical or maritime connectivity, or in health or cultural aspects,” she said.
She underscored China’s positive response to the region in terms of both access to and purchasing of COVID-19 vaccines, and emphasized the opportunity to drive the joint production of vaccines with China and other countries based on existing cooperation initiatives with Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.
Along these lines, she asserted that contributions from China will be essential for the implementation of the plan for self-sufficiency in health matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, unanimously approved at the VI Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin American States (CELAC) on September 18.
ECLAC’s Executive Secretary also asserted that China and LAC can collaborate to foster clean, green, low-carbon development. Sectors such as electricity transition to renewable energy sources, electric vehicles and public transportation are new, interesting areas for the green industrialization and climate action required under the Paris Agreement.
She added that one area of major potential is the possibility of attracting Chinese investment in the direct digital economy, in addition to connecting the 66.2 million households in the region that still have very limited internet access.
“It is imperative that we improve digital infrastructure in the region. China and Latin America and the Caribbean must work together to achieve universal digital access for an inclusive digital economy and to advance toward 5G and artificial intelligence,” she emphasized.
Finally, the ECLAC senior representative underscored that the China-CELAC Forum is the ideal place to work toward deeper cooperation.
“With 32 member countries, CELAC is a common space for aligning priorities and coordinating open dialogue with the entire region,” she concluded.
The closing session was moderated by Lan Lijun, President of the China Foundation for International Studies, and with participation from Wang Chao, President of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, and remarks by Xu Bu, President of the Chinese Institute of International Studies, Chai Yu, General Director and Researcher for ILAS-CASS, and José Ignacio Martínez Cortés, member of the Association of Universities of Latin America and the Caribbean (UDUAL) and professor at the Center for International Relations, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.