Official urges nation to diversify Latin America trade links

Updated: 2011-11-02 10:23

By Li Lianxing (China Daily)

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BEIJING - China should diversify its trade relationship and partners in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to reinforce South-South cooperation amid the deepening financial crisis, said a regional economic official.

Osvaldo Rosales, director of the International Trade and Integration Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, said China may replace Europe as the region's second-biggest economic partner, but trade is concentrated in a few countries and a few products.

Rosales said that in the region China's the most active trade relationships are with Brazil, Chile and Argentina. Exports from LAC to China are mainly copper and soy, which account for 30 percent and 12 percent respectively, he added.

The world financial crisis has hastened the reduction of the per capita income gap between developing countries and advanced economies, and the global economy's center of gravity has shifted toward emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Afirca, he said.

"Reinforcing South-South links is important in order to recover from the crisis," he said, adding that LAC's exports to the United States and the European Union in 2009 decreased 26 percent and 29 percent, while the region's exports to China grew 11 percent.

He said a strong South-South relationship would help safeguard against the impact of the global financial crisis and improve the ability of economies to recover. Luis Schmidt Montes, Chilean ambassador to China, said that as China's second-biggest trading partner in Latin America, Chile expects to increase its exports to China and diversify these beyond mineral resources.

Exports of Chilean wine and fruit to China increased in 2010, worth $100 million and $160 million respectively, and there is great potential to increase exports of dairy products, pork and seafood, he said.

"China is the most populous country in the world but only occupies 8 percent of total arable land," Montes said. "So there is huge potential for food consumption in China." According to statistics released by the Chilean Agriculture Ministry, the nation's exports of dairy products in the first half of this year totaled $109 million, up 39 percent compared with the same period last year.

The main destinations were Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil and the US, accounting for 23.3 percent, 15.1 percent, 11.3 percent and 9.1 percent respectively. China's share was 6.9 percent.

Chen Yuanting, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China should specify its investment markets in LAC and fully acknowledge the region's social, cultural and economic differences. "A single and unilateral policy would not benefit future bilateral relations," Chen said.

Ouyang Yuanhua contributed to this story.