China and Ecuador reached agreement on a visa exemptions, as the energy-reliant Latin American country, facing a deep plunge in the price of oil, works to attract Chinese tourists and investors.
Under the agreement, Chinese passport-holders will be able to visit the Andean country, with its abundant tourist attractions, without applying for a visa in advance, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said at a meeting with Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Jan 8.
Correa, in Beijing for the first ministerial meeting of the Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said he expects “hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists will come to Ecuador after the procedures are simplified” and hopes a direct flight from Quito, Ecuador’s capital, to Beijing will operate soon.
Correa touted Ecuador’s “highly diversified” cultures, landscapes fauna and species at an address to students at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, saying he hopes the number of Chinese tourists will jump from the current 15,000 to 150,000 in a few years.
Ecuador is known for its diversified animal species. It was on the Galapagos Islands that Charles Darwin was inspired to write his masterpiece The Origin of Species.
The country is the smallest member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC in terms of production.
Li said China hopes relations with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States will rise further after Ecuador takes over the rotating chairmanship of the 33-member bloc when Costa Rica’s term expires.
“China is willing to use its advantage in equipment manufacturing to help Ecuador develop industries in steel, metallurgy and shipbuilding,” Li said.
Also on Jan 8, Li met Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis, before meeting with Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie.
Ecuador is one of several countries in the region seeking intensified cooperation with China to improve their economies, located in what has been long considered the traditional backyard of the United States.
A dozen countries in the region that have no formal diplomatic relations with Beijing joined the group when it was established in 2011 in Caracas, Venezuela.
Su Zhenxing, a senior research fellow on Latin American studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said countries without diplomatic relations with Beijing are not excluded as they have maintained trade links with China, albeit in small volume, and China is eager to foster cooperation with the whole area.