"We need to change the traditional pattern of our relations with China characterized by the Latin American export of raw materials and Chinese investment in extractive sectors. It is necessary to promote the diversification of exports and direct investment". With these words, the Director of Universidad del Pacífico Center for China and Asia-Pacific Studies, Dr. Rosario Santa Gadea, participated in the First CELAC-China High-level Academic Forum, held at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile, on October 17 and 18.
The event was convened by the Institute of Latin American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (ILAS-CASS), the Institute of Chile and ECLAC and brought together specially invited academic experts from Latin America and the Caribbean and from China.
When explaining about "Trade, Investment and Financing between China and Latin America and the Caribbean," Dr. Rosario Santa Gadea said that, in terms of exports, "an area of great potential is fresh food products and there is also a need to promote intra-industry trade to participate in global value chains with Chinese companies." Regarding investments, "potential sectors, in addition to the extractive sectors, are infrastructure and manufactures aimed at the global market."
It should be noted that, Universidad del Pacífico Center for China and Asia-Pacific Studies was the only Peruvian institution that took part in the meeting. According to Santa Gadea, it is important to mention that this meeting is part of the set of activities that are being organized before the Second Ministerial Meeting of the China-CELAC Forum, to be held also in Chile, between January 21 and 22, 2018.
Finally, "due to the heterogeneity of Latin America and the Caribbean, the planning of the future economic relations of the region with China should not be limited to the CELAC-China aggregate level, but should be complemented by bilateral strategies and subregional approaches," Santa Gadea said.
At the closing ceremony, the Executive Secretary of ECLAC, Alicia Bárcena, recalled that "China has become the second commercial partner of Latin America and the Caribbean, only behind the United States, and is also a major foreign investor in the region". Like Santa Gadea, Bárcena insisted that "the main challenge for our region in its relationship with the Asian country is how to diversify its exports: only 5 products (soybeans, iron and copper ores, oil and refined copper) represent almost 70% of the total value exported to China. In addition, Chinese investments in the region reinforce this pattern, since nearly 90% of them are directed to extractive activities (mainly mining and oil)."
From her point of view, "the 2015-2019 Cooperation Plan between CELAC and China gives us an opportunity" and we must be able to "generate a joint work program, similar to the One Belt, One Road Chinese initiative". On the other hand, the Director General of ILAS-CASS, Wu Baiyi, considered that this forum "has contributed to mutual understanding and knowledge, as well as to fostering trust between China and the Latin American and Caribbean region."
The Academic Forum concluded with recommendations and guidelines for the decisions that the Foreign Ministers and government representatives will make at their meeting in January 2018, based on the debates that were organized in four sessions on: economic reforms in China and their implications for Latin America and the Caribbean; China-LAC trade, financial and investment relationships; infrastructure and connectivity, as well as the One Belt, One Road initiative: global projections; and science, technology and innovation:
LAC and China projections within the framework of international reorganization.
Dr. Rosario Santa Gadea, director of Universidad del Pacífico Center for China and Asia-Pacific Studies