China's Xi woos Latin America with $250 billion investments

Thu Jan 8, 2015 6:05am EST
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By Megha Rajagopalan

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged on Thursday $250 billion in investment in Latin America over the next 10 years as part of a drive to boost resource-hungry China's influence in a region long dominated by the United States.

Leaders of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC - a 33-country bloc that does not include the United States or Canada - gathered in Beijing for the first time for a two-day forum on Thursday.

Xi said two-way trade between China and Latin America was expected to rise to $500 billion in 10 years.

"This meeting will ... give the world a positive signal about deepening cooperation between China and Latin America and have an important and far-reaching impact on promoting South-South cooperation and prosperity for the world," Xi said.

China and Latin America are cooperating on energy, infrastructure construction, agriculture, manufacturing and technological innovation, Xi said.

Deng Yuwen, a Beijing-based political analyst, said China was interested in the region's resources and markets.

"Obviously, China has the intention to compete with the U.S. for a greater sphere of influence in the region," said Deng. "But whether this strategy will weaken U.S. influence now is hard to judge."

Matt Ferchen, resident scholar at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, said China's push would not alarm Washington with improving U.S.-Cuba ties set to boost U.S. influence.   Continued...

(Front seated L-R) Cuba's Minister of Foreign Trade Rodrigo Malmierca, Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, Costa Rica's Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez Sanz, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Director of National Development and Reform Commission Xu Shao Shi and Bahamas' Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell attend the First Ministerial Meeting of the Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Carribean States (China-CELAC) at the Diaoyutai Guesthouse in Beijing, January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Rolex Dela Pena/Pool