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FROM EIR DAILY ALERT


Belt and Road Initiative Will Be Key Focus of China-CELAC Forum in Chile

Jan. 18, 2018 (EIRNS)—There is much optimism about the second ministerial-level conference of the China-CELAC Forum, meeting in Santiago, Chile Jan. 19-22, attended by foreign ministers from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and by Chinese dignitaries, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Founded in July 2014 at the BRICS annual summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, the China-CELAC Forum held its first ministerial meeting in January 2015 in Beijing.

Commentary in recent days from China experts and diplomats throughout the Latin America-Caribbean (LAC) region expresses great hopefulness on the potential for expanding ties with China across many areas and, most importantly, securing this region’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). “Latin America has great interest in forming part of that initiative,” Alicia Barcena, executive director of the UN’s Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) told Xinhua. Xinhua stated that the BRI will be “one of the pillars” upon which China-CELAC ministerial meeting will be based.

Wang Yi elaborated on this in an opinion piece published in Peru’s official daily El Peruano today, entitled “The Time Is Ripe for Our Cooperation.” He pointed out that, since the LAC region was historically a natural extension of the Maritime Silk Road, today it should be an important and crucial participant in the BRI. One of the goals of the summit, he said, is to achieve

“a strategic articulation at the highest level between China and the region in the joint construction of the Belt and Road.... We shall strengthen to the maximum and deepen policy coordination to elaborate a road map and action plan” for that purpose, and “urge more Latin American and Caribbean nations to sign cooperation agreements with China in the framework of the Belt and Road. We will promote infrastructure development to forge new paths of cooperation and development,”

Wang wrote.

The summit will produce an action plan for cooperation over the next three years, covering such areas as infrastructure, transportation, science and technology innovation, energy, security, development of human resources, and cultural cooperation. Also likely to be discussed is the creation of a China-CELAC Free Trade Area. There is strong sentiment from Alicia Barcena and others that CELAC must make a greater effort to act as a unified, integrated region, rather than each nation relating to China or to the Belt and Road on a bilateral basis.

Pointing to potential obstacles, Russian specialist Alexandr Jarlamenko, from the Latin America Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Sputnik Mundo today that the neoliberal governments of Mauricio Macri in Argentina and Sebastian Pinera in Chile could be an impediment to further regional integration, should they continue to play the anti-China card and decide to stick with the U.S. as their key international ally.