The 60th annual meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which was scheduled to be hosted by China's government in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, from March 28-31, 2019, was surprisingly canceled by IDB's board of executive directors just five days before the meeting was to be held. The decision was suddenly made irrespective of numerous preparations made by the Chinese government as it looked to host the meeting for the first time.
IDB is a regional inter-governmental financial organization comprised of Latin American countries, the U.S., China and the other non-western hemisphere countries as its members. The annual meeting should be an ideal platform not only for China and the Latin American countries, but for the developed countries and developing countries to exchange mutual views and promote bilateral financial cooperation. It would also be helpful for Sino-Latin American economic and trade cooperation, for the trilateral cooperation between China, the United States and Latin America, as well as multilateral cooperation between the IDB members within the organization.
However, as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang has stated, some countries have tried to politicize the events by pushing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido's appointee to the meeting regardless of divisions in the member states. It is truly regretful that the meeting was canceled but the solid cooperation between China and Latin America will not be affected.
As part of the developing world, China and Latin America both aspire to be independent, prosperous, socially harmonious and hope for better lives for their people. They have been enjoying good trade relations and there is still huge economic cooperation potential to be exploited. China-Latin America trade was suspended at around 260 billion U.S. dollars in 2015 and 2016 due to various factors. But according to China Customs statistics, the bilateral trade volume between China and Latin America in 2018 reached more than 300 billion U.S. dollars, marking a year-on-year growth of 18.9 percent.
The rate of economic and trade growth between China and Latin America rose rapidly and its volume has increased 20-fold in the past decade. The main reason for the rapid growth is that China's strong demand for imported products has become the principal factor driving China-Latin America economic and trade cooperation.
The Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) stated in its report of 2018 that Latin American and Caribbean exports to China outpaced export growth to the rest of Asia, Europe, the United States and Latin America itself in 2017. Thus, CEPAL believes that China is the most dynamic trading partner in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Mutual demand not only boosts the quality and upgrading of China-Latin American trade, but also serves as the basis for deepening pragmatic cooperation between China and Latin America under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. At the Second Ministerial Conference of the Forum China-CELAC held in Santiago, Chile, in January 2018, China officially extended its BRI coverage to the Latin American region.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi meet at the China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Forum, in Santiago, Chile, January 22, 2018. /VCG Photo
Up to now, nine Latin American countries have signed a memorandum of understanding to participate in the BRI. The reason is that this initiative is not only conducive for Chinese enterprises to access Latin America, but more importantly, Latin America believes that their integration into the BRI is a great opportunity for their own economic and social development in the future.
Pragmatically, China and Latin America share many common interests and mutual points of cooperation in infrastructure, agriculture and other fields. It is foreseeable that the Belt and Road Initiative can open up the Chinese market for Latin America and inject strong impetus into the potential of deepening the China-Latin America economic and trade cooperation relationship.