China on January 22, 2018 invited Latin American and Caribbean countries to join its ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, as part of an agreement to deepen economic and political cooperation in a region where US influence is historically strong.
Representatives from China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) signed a broad agreement to expand ties in their very second meet in Santiago, Chile. CELAC is a bloc formed in Venezuela in 2011 that does not include the United States or Canada.
Speaking on the occasion, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the region was a natural fit for the initiative, which China has leveraged to deepen economic and financial cooperation with developing nations.
The agreement is part of an evolving and more aggressive Chinese foreign policy in Latin America as the United States, under President Donald Trump, has taken a more protectionist stance.
Besides this, China and the CELAC representatives also agreed to bolster trade and take action on climate change.
The agreement is perfectly in line with China’s vision of playing a bigger role in global affairs.
China is the top trading partner of many countries in the Latin American region, including Brazil, Chile and Argentina.
In recent years, Chinese companies have moved away from merely buying Latin American raw materials and are diversifying into sectors such as auto manufacturing, e-commerce and even technology businesses such as car-hailing services.
About One Belt, One Road
• The initiative –‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) was proposed by China’s President Xi Jinping to expand connectivity and cooperation between Asia, Africa and Europe.
• The project calls for billions of dollars worth infrastructure investment.
• The strategy underlines China's push to take a larger role in global affairs with a China-centered trading network.
• It was unveiled in September and October 2013 for Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) respectively.
• Until now, under the initiative, the focus has mainly been on infrastructure investment, construction materials, railway and highway, automobile, real estate, power grid, and iron and steel.