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With China as guest, G77 summit seeks new development pledges
by Staff Writers
Santa Cruz De La Sierra, Bolivia (AFP) June 14, 2014

China invests in development to enhance LatAm presence
Santa Cruz De La Sierra, Bolivia (AFP) June 14, 2014 - China, whose presence in Latin America until now was largely based on an appetite for raw materials, is diversifying investments by financing much needed development projects, analysts say.

At a summit, opening Saturday in Santa Cruz, the G77 + China group of developing nations meets on its 50th anniversary to promote economic development.

Delegations from 133 countries and some three dozen heads of state will be in attendance.

"China now acts in a different way with South American countries," said Gabriel Dabdoub, president of the chamber of commerce of the Santa Cruz region, Bolivia's economic engine.

The Asian powerhouse "no longer aims at only at buying raw materials, it wants to get into investing in industrialization," Dabdoub told AFP.

Bolivia, Latin America's poorest country, has experienced more than six percent growth in recent years and has plans for major infrastructure work.

"China is particularly attracted by industrialization projects that the country needs over the next 10 years and which cost an estimated $42 billion," Dabdoub said.

Chinese companies have expressed interest most notably in building a railway from Bolivia to Brazil, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as in road and river connection projects.

In Brasilia, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently announced his country's interest in increasing its investments and relationship with Latin America and the Caribbean.

And although Chinese President Xi Jinping will be notably absent from the Santa Cruz summit, he plans to participate mid-July in Brazil in a BRICS meeting of emerging economic powers Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

- From infrastructure to satellites -

Mass purchase of raw materials and sale of manufactured goods have made China the second trading partner of a number of countries in the region in recent years. And in 2009, China became Brazil's number one trading partner, ahead of the United States.

"Until recently Bolivia did not consider China a partner, it was very wary," Dabdoub said. "But now there is more trade, and, in fact, we've just acquired a satellite."

Bolivian President Evo Morales last December traveled to China with several ministers to attend the launch of Tupac Katari, his country's first telecommunications satellite.

China provided $102.2 billion in loans to Latin American countries between 2005 and 2013, particularly to Venezuela and Argentina, according to a report released in April by the Global Economic Governance Initiative at Boston University.

Last year, alone, China loaned Latin American governments, public enterprises and private companies $20.1 billion.

"Today, in terms of trade and investment, China is displacing the region's traditional partners like Europe and the United States," Gary Rodriguez, president of the Bolivian Institute of Foreign Trade, based in Santa Cruz, told AFP.

Bolivian analyst and former foreign minister Armando Loayza told AFP that China "certainly plays a greater role in the new millennium and will strengthen its commercial expansion by coming together with Latin America."

In neighboring Peru, one of the region's most dynamic economies, China's metal mining industry made its largest overseas acquisition earlier this year with the purchase of the Las Bambas copper mine, for around $5.85 billion.

In 2013, China also signed a contract with Venezuela -- which sits atop the world's largest oil reserves -- for a $28-billion project in the resource-rich Orinoco Oil Belt in the country's east.

Leaders of developing nations plus China meet here Saturday to draft a global anti-poverty agenda at a summit that also showcases Latin America's burgeoning relationship with the Asian giant.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Bolivia's President Evo Morales were scheduled to inaugurate the G77 summit, which marks the 50th anniversary of the group's founding.

It has grown from 77 developing countries in 1964 to 133 member states, encompassing two thirds of the world's countries.

"This summit is not purely commemorative, it will propose new social policies," said Morales, a leader of Latin America's radical left and the group's current president.

The summit closes Sunday with a document that Bolivia's Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera described as "the first draft of the post Millennium Development Goals," a set of UN goals that are approaching their 2015 expiration date.

Hammered out in previous meetings, the G77 document sets forth ambitious new commitments to reduce poverty and inequality, foster sustainable development, protect sovereignty over natural resources and promote fair trade and technology transfers.

The world is still well short of fulfilling the original eight Millennium goals, which include a call to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty.

Other goals include guaranteed access to primary education, equality for women and girls, reduction of infant and maternal mortality and diseases like AIDS and malaria, and facilitating access to potable water.

- Growing trade with China -

China, which is not a G77 member, is participating in the summit, partly in a nod to its expanding trade ties in Latin America, although President Xi Jinping will not attend.

Beijing will be represented by Chen Zhu, a vice chairman of China's National People's Congress.

Chen met with Morales ahead of the summit opening, and pledged an $80 million loan to modernize Bolivian airline BOA and purchase four new aircraft, Bolivia said.

With massive purchases of commodities and exports of its manufactured goods to the region, China in recent years has emerged as a main trade partner of many Latin American countries.

Beijing now seeks a new model of cooperation that would marshal large investments for infrastructure projects needed to sustain growth in Latin America.

During a tour of the region in May, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing intends to invest more in Latin America and raise relations to a new level.

Iran's Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri pledged during a separate meeting with Morales a $200 million line of credit for "health, the pharmaceutical industry and agriculture."

Cuban President Raul Castro was among leaders who have already arrived.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, who has her hands full as host of a World Cup that has sparked street protests, is not attending.

Neither are Chile's President Michelle Bachelet, whose country is at odds with Bolivia over a maritime dispute, and Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos, who faces tough elections Sunday.

Before formally opening the summit, Morales will attend a session here with leftist social activists.

Maduro, whose own leftist government faces mounting public discontent, was expected to attend along with his counterparts from Cuba and Ecuador.

Santa Cruz, the richest and second largest city in Bolivia, has pulled out all the stops for the summit, the G77's first in Latin America.

It has repaved roads and upgraded infrastructure in record time, but the preparations have been dampened by torrential rains.


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