Experts hailed Premier Li Keqiang’s trip to Latin America as a reflection of China’s growing commitment to the region’s development.
“I think that the trip exceeds many expectations,” Eric Farnsworth, vice-president of the Council of the Americas, told China Daily on May 26, when Li wound up his four-nation tour to Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Chile.
The size and importance of joint announcements with the four countries that Li visited attracted significant notice across the region. If fully and timely implemented, the specific actions contemplated will potentially be transformative in the region, Farnsworth said.
From infrastructure projects linking Brazil to the Pacific Ocean, to joint activities with Brazil in the peaceful uses of space, to infrastructure and investment commitments with Colombia and Peru, to currency swaps and the liberalization of visas with Chile, among others, the premier’s visit will play an important role in cementing China’s emerging economic and political profile in South America, according to Farnsworth.
“China has clearly shown itself to be committed to long term engagement in the region. Now, the challenge will be to work with local officials to ensure that the projects are not just fully implemented, but done so in a manner that is win-win, consistent with the needs and expectations of all parties,” he said.
“Indeed, it will be fascinating to watch how the relationship progresses over the next 10 years, considering that China’s economic engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean is barely a decade old to this point but has already become a pillar of regional economies,”
Ted Carpenter, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, described Li’s trip as “a solid success.”
“He worked diligently to upgrade the economic ties between Latin America and China,” Carpenter said.
Margaret Myers, program director of China and Latin America at the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank based in Washington, said Li’s trip is both similar to and different from previous Chinese high-level visits to the region.
“It is similar in that it resulted in many high-profile announcements of multibillion dollar financing and investment deals and promises of continued cooperation in a wide variety of sectors. It is different in that Li’s visit focused for the most part on Latin America’s most open markets, which have traditionally been somewhat challenging for Chinese firms,” Myers said.
In Myers view, the visit also clearly supported the fairly new 1+3+6 cooperation framework, which President Xi Jinping announced last July while attending the China-Latin America and the Caribbean Summit last July in Brasilia, Brazil.
The new “1+3+6” cooperation framework is proposed by Xi to strengthen ties through one cooperation plan, three engines of trade, investment and financial cooperation and in six fields of energy and resources, infrastructure construction, agriculture, manufacturing, scientific and technological innovation, and information technologies.
“The deals announced last week are fairly consistent with the plans for investment diversification and financial cooperation indicated in the framework. Also evident during this trip is an enhanced focus on new transoceanic routes for the transport of Latin American raw materials,” Myer said, referring to the proposed $100 billion and 5,000-km railway project linking Brazil’s Atlantic coast to Peru’s Pacific shores. China, Brazil and Peru have agreed to conduct feasibility study of the project.
“From the perspective of Chile, Colombia, Peru and Brazil, the visit was viewed as quite positive,” said Harold Trinkunas, director of the Latin America Initiative at the Brookings Institute.
He noted that the relationship between China and Latin America is still in its beginning phases and Chinese companies will need to learn to work within the legal, cultural, political and economic systems of Latin America.