A China-Latin America forum for cooperation is helping to promote integration among Latin American countries through infrastructure projects, according to an expert.
Evandro Menezes Carvalho, director of China studies at the Brazilian think tank Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV), spoke with Xinhua about the upcoming second ministerial meeting for the China and the Forum of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), also known as the China-CELAC Forum.
"Previously, not much thought was given to integrating the Americas through infrastructure -- (which is) the way to promote real economic integration -- but now, yes, through the model that China is proposing," said Carvalho, who is also a professor of international law at the foundation.
As China boosts trade with Latin America, it is increasingly interested in developing a robust infrastructure network in the region that can efficiently and cost-effectively ship goods and products from producing centers to export hubs along South America's pacific coast.
"Investment in infrastructure, in the area of agriculture, energy and natural resources, reflects the fact that China's presence is quite important in South America. There is a justified concern in creating more efficient transport infrastructure that can connect the two sides," said Carvalho.
"They are projects that have a concrete character of integrating these regions with an eye to improving international trade through these direct Chinese investments, which will have a great impact on the region," he said.
To that end, the China-CELAC Forum will tackle "an extremely large agenda of interest to both sides," said the expert.
The forum "is a promising initiative, full of possibilities for both China and Latin American countries, with a very wide-ranging agenda ... that includes agriculture, transport, infrastructure, tourism, science, technology, education, strengthening people-to-people and cultural ties, energy and security policies," said Carvalho.
China's push to help improve regional integration through infrastructure building received an immediate boost following the first forum held in Beijing in 2015, noted the expert.
"Despite Chinese investment having been extremely important for the region, as it aimed to help the region develop its infrastructure and more efficiently connect it to the Pacific, South America underwent a series of difficult political, economic and social changes," he said.
"Internal processes in Latin America that were marked by relative social instability and an economic crisis had a harmful effect in those first three years," added Carvalho.
A region marked by vast wealth disparities, Latin America is often roiled by social unrest and political upheaval. With elections coming up in several key regional countries, like Mexico and Venezuela, 2018 is set to be a politically eventful year.
Nevertheless, Carvalho is optimistic about the future outlook of China-Latin American cooperation.
The second forum will start a year "in which various Latin American countries will be looking for a new direction and I am especially optimistic about the next three years," said the expert.