Russian-Chinese advance towards Latin America: what does Latin American really expect?

To date, Beijing and Moscow are important trading partners of the Latin American and Caribbean countries with which they develop and maintain strong and flexible relations based on friendly understanding, cooperation, respect and complementarity. According to official data of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, the commodity exchange between China and the Latin American region in 2017 amounted to 260 billion dollars, which is 18.8% more than in 2016.

In the last days of February, the 11th round of consultations between the foreign affairs agencies of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation on Latin America took place in the capital of the Celestial Empire, where the parties discussed a wide range of issues such as the overall situation in Latin America, Russian-Chinese relations with the countries of the region, development of contacts with a number of Latin American countries, etc. As the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China Geng Shuang noted that the Chinese government supports a similar bilateral format of dialogue not only with Russia, but also with other countries and in particular with the Republic of Korea, the United States of America and Japan.

This negotiating mechanism between the foreign ministries of Russia and China on relations with Latin American countries was launched in 2001, and since 2007 it has been held annually. The advisory platform actively promotes the strengthening of mutual understanding between the two countries and the development of their relations with the region of Latin America. As noted by participants in the bilateral format, such a dialogue has made progress in strengthening mutual political and economic contacts. An effective consultation mechanism is aimed at strengthening mutual understanding between China and Russia and respecting the development interests of Latin American countries.

This year, the Russian side in the 11th round of consultations was introduced by the Director of the Latin American Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alexander Schetinin. He stressed that Latin America faces big challenges, first of all, the implementation of its model of socio-economic development and ensuring its interests in the international arena.

The Russian diplomat noted that in order to achieve their interests, Latin American states have the right, as full participants in the international community, to interact and cooperate with those with whom they consider it necessary. As before, the Russian side reiterated its intention to develop cooperation with the countries of Latin America, and in this process advocates full compliance with the norms of the World Trade Organization, directed against economic protectionism and artificial obstruction of free competition.

The head of the Latin American Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China Zhao Bentang, in turn, stressed that in general in the Latin American region there is a tendency of a stable and orderly model of sustainable development. In recent years, the region has been actively participating in international relations and playing an increasingly important role in world political and economic processes. He also stressed China’s readiness to deepen and diversify relations with Latin American countries on the basis of adherence to the principles of mutual respect, equality, openness and inclusiveness, and to optimize, modify and modernize cooperation tools aimed at innovative development in the process of joint promotion of the construction of the “New Silk Road Project”, also known as the initiative “One belt – one way” (BRI). The diplomat noted that the sustainable development of relations between China and Latin America meets the common interests of the Chinese side and Latin American countries, and will contribute to the stability and prosperity of the region and the world.

Within the framework of the consultations, Wang Ping, the director of the famous Institute for the Latin American Studies in the Nankai University, pointed out that relations of comprehensive cooperation and partnership between China and Latin America are based on equality and mutual benefit, and are currently aimed at joint development and are not aimed at against a third side, which meets both the fundamental interests of the two sides and the current trends in the achievement of peace, development and cooperation. According to Wang Ping, the round of consultations held on the 26th of February is of great importance for both countries. This year, the dialogue took place against the backdrop of a gradual revival of the economy of the Latin American states, which underlines the special importance of consultations.

It is worth stressing again that the Russian side today, as before, highly appreciates the dialogue with China. Such a consultative mechanism is an integral part of the bilateral relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation, which consist of a large number of specific, point-directed areas of dialogue, one of which is still the interaction of the parties in the Latin American direction.

The importance attached to the US proclaimed “backyard of America” ​​in Beijing and Moscow eloquently speaks, for example, of the number of large working visits to the region of representatives of both the Russian government and the Chinese leadership. It is worth emphasizing, and a number of meetings held in Russia and China with Latin American leaders. During the five years that Xi Jinping was in power, he visited three times in Latin America. To a large extent, thanks to these trips, trade and business between the PRC and Latin American countries received a new round of development. Vladimir Putin over the past two years also visited the region twice and hosted a number of regional leaders.

At first glance, it seems that the Celestial Empire has launched a policy towards Latin America that has already been tested in Africa and has already proved its effectiveness. With the help of “soft power” and economic instruments such as multibillion credits and investments, the Chinese again gradually penetrate into the states of the region.

In 2017, Xi Jinping promised to increase trade with the Latin American region by half a trillion dollars by 2025, and direct foreign investment by a quarter of a trillion. It is worth remembering that a few days after the election of Donald Trump, the US president in Beijing published a white book in which the Latin American region is called “the land of energy and hope”.

How the Russian-Chinese advance towards the Latin American region will develop, it will show the coming years. However, the figures speak for themselves: while trade between the United States and Latin America has doubled since 2000, the trade volume of the Latin American region with China, according to the estimates of the well-known economist of the OECD Angel Melguzio, has grown 22 times. This is impressive, even taking into account the fact that initially the volume of China’s trade was significantly inferior to that of the US. Russia is also trying to settle in the countries of the region, as indicated by the figures: Russia’s trade with Latin American countries has grown six-times higher since 2000. Over the years, about 200 joint documents have been signed covering various aspects of cooperation.

Although the United States is still the largest trading partner for Latin America, but with Trump’s promises to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico, one can safely assume that the US leadership will be short-lived and that they will be bypassed by China and Russia. Beijing and Moscow are already major trading partners for the main economies of South America: Brazil, Peru and Argentina.

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