China Pursues Latin America Ties

Both the Chinese Vice President and Vice Premier are making high-profile visits to Latin America this week. Vice Premier Hui Liangyu will visit Argentina, Ecuador, Barbados and the Bahamas, while Vice President Xi Jinping is visiting Jamaica, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Mexico. President Hu paid a visit to Cuba and Costa Rica at the end of last year. The BBC reports:

It is not simply a trip to groom a president-in-waiting or to strike more deals for natural resources, as is often the case with Africa.

China’s export markets in Europe and North America have shrunk substantially in the global financial crisis.

The government is desperate to open up new markets in the region of more than half a billion consumers and maintain market share for China’s export machines in 2009.

China is the third largest trading partner for Latin America.

Last month, it was reported that China had joined the Inter-American Development Bank, with a contribution of $350 million. From the Wall Street Journal:

China plans to help fund a number of initiatives to help Latin American countries cope with the global financial crisis and economic slowdown, including $125 million for the IDB’s special operations fund that lends to the poorest countries.

“Amidst the current financial crisis, it is of greater importance to strengthen comprehensive cooperation between China and Latin America,” said Zhou Wenzhong, China’s U.S. ambassador, at Monday’s signing ceremony.

IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno said China’s membership comes “at a critical moment for the world economy, when countries need to protect recent social and economic gains.”

Meanwhile a congressional hearing urged President Obama to refocus American attention on the region. From AFP:

Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush’s lack of attention to Latin America was partly blamed for the spread of Chavez’ influence in the region, and subcommittee chairman and Democrat Eliot Engel warned of further leftist encroachment unless US policy changed.

“If we create a vacuum, others will rush in, like Iran or China,” he said.

See also:
- “Mexico could be door for Chinese investment in Latin America” from Xinhua

February 8, 2009 11:10 PM
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