Millennium Post

China vows $250-bn for 33-nation South American-Caribbean group

Hosting the first summit of China and CELAC, a 33 member Community, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to boost China's direct investment in the region to $250 billion within a decade and to nearly double annual trade with Latin America to $500 billion in the next 10 years.

This is in addition to Xi's pledge to offer a $20 billion infrastructure loan, a $10 billion concessionary
loan to the region and the setting up of a $5 billion China-Latin America co-operation fund during his visit to Latin America last year. The two-day meeting, which started here on Thursday was attended by Costa Rica President Luis Guillermo Solis, Ecuador President Rafael Correa Delgado, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro Moros, Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie, ministerial representatives from CELAC member countries and members of international organisations.

Venezuela's official AVN news agency reported that China has agreed to provide more than $20 billion in investment in struggling Venezuela following talks between Xi and Maduro. During his meeting with Rafael, Xi offered Ecuador a $5.3 billion credit line.

The Beijing Declaration will summarise political consensus and set the direction for the forum and define cooperation guidelines, Xi said.

China's push into the US backyard comes when the US has taken steps to improve its relations with those countries. The most recent action was to normalise its decades-long frozen ties with Cuba, Chinese analysts said.

As its pivot to Asia strategy has achieved little, the US has paid close attention to China's recent actions in Latin America, Jin Canrong, a professor at the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, told state-run Global Times here.

"Recent US actions, including the dramatic change in diplomatic policy toward Cuba, could be seen as a way to cope with the expanding influence of China in Latin American," Jin said. With abundant
natural resources, Latin America's position and impact have increased, which explains the growing regard China and the US place on the region, he said.

The US is uneasy with China's deepening ties with Latin American countries, as the US could interpret this as China's strategy to tap into its sphere of influence, said Zhang Jiazhe, research fellow at Shanghai Academy of Social Science.

"But the US at present will tolerate it, since bilateral cooperation between China and Latin America mainly focuses on economy and trade," Zhang said.

Established in December 2011 in Caracas, Venezuela, CELAC is a block of 33 countries, including all Latin American countries and some Caribbean states.

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