CHINA> Opinion
Frontiers of friendship
(China Daily)
Updated: 2008-11-18 07:50

Improving relations with Latin American countries has for long been an important aspect of China's foreign policy.

China issued its first Policy Paper on Latin America and the Caribbean region earlier this month, further clarifying its goals and guiding principles for future cooperation with the region. It highlights China's aim to build a comprehensive and cooperative partnership based on equality, mutual benefit and common development with countries in that region.

This is precisely why President Hu Jintao's visit to Costa Rica, Cuba and Peru is all the more important. His visit will play a significant role in improving ties with those countries. Hu will meet with the heads of state of the three countries, and sign bilateral agreements on trade, finance, technology, energy and education.

Hu arrived in San Jose on Sunday, beginning the first state visit to Costa Rica by a Chinese head of state since the two countries set up diplomatic ties last year. This will not only strengthen China's relations with this important Central American nation, but also have far-reaching consequences in promoting China's ties with the region.

Hu's trip to Cuba, which has the longest diplomatic relations with China in Latin America, will also be fruitful as both sides will exchange views on important international and regional issues and sign agreements on trade and education.

Exchange of high-level official visits between China and Peru has been frequent since the two countries signed a comprehensive partnership in 2005. Hu's current visit will push the relations to a new high. The two countries may reach a free trade agreement during the visit.

Hu's visit to the Latin American countries prior to attending the 16th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum will also expand China's trade relations with them under the APEC framework.

Sino-Latin American trade has developed rapidly since Hu's first visit to the region in 2004. Bilateral trade crossed $100 billion last year, meeting the target set by Hu three years before schedule. The trade volume in the first three quarters of this year between China and Latin America reached $111.4 billion, up 52 percent year on year. The growth rate was much higher than China's overall foreign trade growth of 24.4 percent during the same period last year.

But the fast growth of trade between the two sides has created some problems. Unfair accusations have been made against China on dumping goods in Latin American countries.

That's one of the reasons why Hu's visits to the three countries are so important. They will help China and Latin America strengthen their mutual understanding and communication through exchanges of state visits and other forms of dialogue.

The global financial crisis has made China realize once again the importance of cooperating more closely with Latin America. The two sides are important parts of the developing world and play a major role in the international arena. They are important emerging economies, and thus should play a greater role in establishing a new, just and fair financial system that other nations can join to fight the global economic downturn.

(China Daily 11/18/2008 page8)