Argentina officially joins BRI in major boost for China-Latin America cooperation

Argentina has officially joined the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on the 50th anniversary of China-Argentina diplomatic ties, with top leaders from both countries expressing their willingness to further deepen bilateral cooperation as well as cooperation between China and Latin America. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Argentine President Alberto Fernandez in Beijing on Sunday after Fernandez attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games. Following the meeting, a joint statement on deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership with the signing of a series of documents for future cooperation was released.

In a major step, officials from China and Argentina signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation within the framework of the BRI, aiming to promote the construction of the BRI in Argentina and cooperation in various fields, including policy communication, connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, people-to-people exchanges, and third-party markets, the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planner, said on Sunday. 

National flags of China and Argentina Photo: VCG

During the meeting, Xi stressed that the two countries should promote the high-quality construction of the BRI and implement existing major cooperation projects such as hydropower plants and railways, while giving full play to their complementary advantages and deepening cooperation in various fields.

In addition to the MoU on BRI cooperation, the two countries also signed cooperation documents for over ten areas, including green development, the digital economy, aerospace, the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, technological innovation and agriculture. 

Analysts noted that Argentina will greatly benefit from the BRI in multiple fields such as infrastructure construction, economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and investment, which will have a positive effect on Latin American countries that have yet to join the BRI.

Argentina will be able to attract more investment from China and deepen comprehensive cooperation in bilateral trade and investment in some key fields such as energy and the digital economy, Wang Youming, director of the Institute of Developing Countries at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

According to the joint statement, the two sides agreed to enhance bilateral trade cooperation and continue to expand trade, while promoting financial support for the settlement of China’s exports to Argentina and actively encouraging the promotion of trade diversification. 

A previously signed bilateral local currency swap agreement has played an important role in maintaining Argentina’s financial stability, said the joint statement. The two sides will continue to closely cooperate in local currency swaps and encourage both sides to make greater use of local currency settlements in trade and investment.

Beyond bilateral cooperation, analysts noted, this is also a tremendous opportunity to further deepen and expand cooperation between China and Latin America, especially as Argentina is holding the rotating presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2022. 

“Countries like Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia that have not yet joined the BRI may consider accelerating their pace in taking the opportunity,” Zhou Zhiwei, an expert on Latin American studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

More Latin American countries are joining the BRI. Before Argentina, the governments of China and Nicaragua signed a MoU in January to jointly promote the BRI.

Trade cooperation between China and Latin American countries is also expanding. On Sunday, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced that China and Ecuador officially entered into free trade agreement negotiations, aiming to tap into each other’s trade potential, optimize value chains, promote trade and investment liberalization, in addition to facilitating and promoting the sustained and diversified development of bilateral trade.

Zhou also emphasized that the pragmatic cooperation between China and the Latin American region in trade and investment under the BRI framework will be further elevated while Argentina holds the rotating presidency of the CELAC. 

Fernandez said that Argentina will continue to actively participate in the BRI cooperation, deepen cooperation in trade, agriculture, infrastructure construction and other fields, and welcome more Chinese enterprises to invest in Argentina. 

He also stressed that Argentina is willing to work closely with China under the multilateral framework, promote multilateralism, and play a greater role in promoting cooperation between the CELAC and China.

Analysts noted that despite slander and interference by the US and some other Western countries, the BRI is welcomed by local people in Latin America. 

Zhou said that the BRI will benefit people in the Latin America region, especially during the tough period of the global economic recovery. Latin American countries are seeking international cooperation, and the openness of China’s policies actually suits their needs better than some Western countries, with more potential to be unleashed, he added. 

Wang also noted that the BRI is set to meet the needs of local people and help economic development, such as infrastructure construction.

“The BRI is a pragmatic aid to help Latin American countries to advance their economic recovery, not a political tool for great power rivalry,” said Wang.

Post script:

On 2 February 2022, World Nuclear News reported that Nucleoeléctrica Argentina and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) have signed an engineering, procurement and construction contract for the development of the Atucha 3 nuclear power plant, to be sited near Lima, about 100 kilometres north west of Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires. 

Source: Global Times, Feb 06, 2022.
https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202202/1251555.shtml

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