Argentine experts have expressed the belief that the upcoming Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation can yield more concrete steps for collaboration between China and Latin America.

Members of the Asian Affairs Committee at Argentina’s Council on International Relations (CARI), a leading think tank, spoke in the lead-up to the forum, which is expected to be held in Beijing later this month.

“I believe China’s presence (in Latin America) is very welcomed. We think it would be very interesting to take advantage of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to take a more active role in infrastructure matters,” the head of the committee, Eduardo Sadous, said.

Photo: The Head of the Committee, Eduardo Sadous.
Photo: The Head of the Committee, Eduardo Sadous.

“In that sense, I think China is a very important strategic partner for Argentina,” Sadous said at CARI’s offices in Buenos Aires.

“China’s presence in Latin America is highly valued,” with the bilateral relationship strengthening in the last decade, not just through closer political and trade ties, but also through greater integration between the two peoples, said Sadous.

“I think the two economies are very complementary. Argentina is a major producer of the food (that) China needs and we also have mineral products that China’s economic development might require,” said Sadous.

During this year’s forum, a conference will be organised specially for the business community for the first time.

Jorge Malena, head of CARI’s working group on China, said that the forum, the second of its kind, is expected to see agreements between business sectors of Latin America and China that are likely to further consolidate ties.

The agreements between governments are needed to create right political and legal frameworks. “It’s also very important to have the business owners, who are the ones to concrete the deals, get together to dialogue about the opportunities,” said Malena.

The initiative’s emphasis on infrastructure building is especially relevant to the region, he said.

“One of the main characteristics of this initiative is to promote the development of connectivity. In that context, infrastructure specifically is a central element, and it is essential for Latin America to achieve a greater rate of economic growth,” said Malena.

In Argentina, cooperation with China in infrastructure development has helped to renovate cargo railways and transportation networks, and generate renewable energy.

“I think the eventual creation of joint ventures to develop the agricultural industry is important. We all know Argentina is an agricultural powerhouse that has yet to add enough value to its production,” Malena said.

Economist Carola Ramon-Berjano, a member of the working group on China, believed that the BRI offers Latin America an opportunity to constructively reflect on its future development.

“Latin America has a lot to gain (from the BRI), but we have to have a very clear local and regional development strategy, and think about how to forcefully insert ourselves in the world,” said Ramon-Berjano.

The forum will be the perfect opportunity to flesh out these ideas, she said.