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'Time for better ties' with South America

By Wang Xiaotian  (China Daily)

13:37, May 09, 2012

China's economic ties with Latin America and the Caribbean need further development as the global economy weakens, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a "yellow book" on Tuesday.

Bilateral relations have moved beyond initial contacts based on trade to more complex interactions such as investment and financial cooperation, the government think tank said.

In just eight years, China's importance as a trade partner for Latin America has increased significantly, said Osvaldo Rosales, director of the international trade and integration division of the United Nations' Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

"China is displacing the European Union as the second-largest trade partner of countries (in the region) and it's more important for South America's growth than the United States," he said.

In 2011, China's trade with Latin American and Caribbean countries exceeded $245 billion.

China has become the region's second-largest trade partner and third-largest investor, said Li Baorong, deputy director-general of the Latin America and Caribbean Department at the Foreign Ministry.

China will soon become South America's biggest trade partner, said Alicia Herrero, chief economist for emerging markets at Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA.

But trade between China and the region is concentrated on few countries and few products. Brazil, Chile and Argentina account for 77 percent of the region's exports to China, with copper exports taking up 30 percent and soy contributing 12 percent, Rosales said.

In each country, a handful of products account for 80 to 90 percent of exports to China, except for Brazil and Mexico.

"Trade with China is excessively of an inter-industrial nature, with Latin America exporting raw materials and importing manufactured goods," Rosales said.

Increased protectionism and a wave of nationalizations in the region could get in the way of improved bilateral economic relations, said Wu Guoping, assistant director of CASS' Institute of Latin American Studies.

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