(9 January 2015) Speaking in Beijing, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, stated “It is vital for the region to forge closer strategic ties with China in order to attract more Chinese foreign direct investment, particularly that aimed at improving infrastructure, promoting production and export diversification and boosting Chinese-Latin American business partnerships”.
The senior United Nations official was one of the speakers at the first ministerial forum between China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which ended on Friday 9 January in the Asian capital, and which was attended by the Presidents of China, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Venezuela; the Prime Minister of the Bahamas; Foreign Ministers from the 33 CELAC member countries; and representatives from multilateral and regional organizations including ECLAC, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF).
According to Ms. Bárcena “We believe it is the right time for a leap forward in the quality of relations between Latin America and the Caribbean and China. This would be helped by a consensual regional agenda of priorities, with an emphasis on plurinational rapprochements”.
She referred to the need for new high-level technical, business and political meetings to lay the foundations for a Chinese-Latin American and Caribbean Summit of Heads of State to be held in the near future.
Ms. Bárcena said it was essential to promote regional cooperation with China for a very simple reason: it is not possible to understand the development and prospects of the world economy without considering China’s key role therein. “Following three and a half decades of an annual growth rate of 10%, China is the world’s top economy and its main exporter. It has achieved impressive progress in reducing poverty and expanding the middle classes”, she stated.
As well as highlighting the fact that China became the region’s second trading partner between 2000 and 2013, the ECLAC Executive Secretary explained that the link between Latin America and the Caribbean and China had brought many benefits, although challenges that remain pending include a growing trade deficit and the strong concentration of regional exports on a small number of commodities.
At the China-CELAC Forum, ECLAC presented participants with the document First Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC): Exploring opportunities for cooperation on trade and investment, which provides an overview of trade and investment relations between the region and China, as well as presenting some recommendations on improving the quality of economic ties between the two.
During her trip to China, Alicia Bárcena took part in the seminar A new development stage of China-Latin American and the Caribbean relations under the framework of south-south cooperation, organized by the Institute of Latin American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (ILAS-CASS). On that occasion, she presented on the main economic and social trends in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as opportunities for cooperation with China.
Ms. Bárcena attended an official reception hosted by the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, and met with the Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang. She was also received by the Executive Vice President of the China Development Bank, Wang Yongsheng, with whom she agreed to sign a cooperation agreement and arrange a Bank mission to ECLAC and other countries of the region in March 2015.
Alicia Bárcena met with Liu Chuansheng, Party Secretary of Beijing Normal University, which will select four students to take part in ECLAC’s annual Summer School. She also met with China’s acting Minister of Agriculture, Yu Xinrong, with whom she agreed to make progress on a joint cooperation project with ILAS-CASS.
Lastly, the ECLAC Executive Secretary attended meetings with China’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Wang Yi, and the Chairman of China’s Development and Reform Commission, Xu Shaoshi.