The Belt and Road comes to Latin America



Up Front

At the China-LAC Business Summit this week in Punta del Este, the expansion of the Belt and Road Initiative to Latin America and the Caribbean was not announced as much as it was assumed. 

Echoing the hint last week by Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno, China Development Bank Executive Vice President Cai Dong said to the 1,800 participants from Latin America (as well as the 700 from China): “'One Belt, One Road’ implies joint prosperity for our people.” Building on the goodwill, Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez was effusive about a Free Trade Agreement between China and the countries of ECLAC. 

Former President of Chile Eduardo Frei sees One Belt One Road as a question of infrastructure for Latin America because: "In Latin America we have 19th century infrastructure."

However, while everyone is all smiles, big questions remain unanswered. Will this be the catalyst for a new round of Chinese investment in Latin America? Or is this just the repackaging  of existing investment with a new label? And how much of this investment will have a lasting impact on Latin America?

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Panamá, plataforma de China para América Latina — La Estrella de Panamá
Panama builds "China team" to improve bilateral ties — Xinhua
Mayor zona libre de América importó de China más $1,340 millones — El Economista
Panama continues to bask in the glow of last week’s State Visit. The country pushes to position itself as China’s platform for the Americas. Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo heads up Panama’s “China Team” with participants from the Ministries of Economy, Finance, Trade, Industry, and Maritime. The impact is being seen, with the Colón Free Trade Zone (ZLC) is looking to expand on the $13.4b in business it did in the first half of the year with China.

Huawei anuncia su desembarco en el resto de Latinoamérica —  C|NET
Huawei has landed. Zack Zhang, vice president of Huawei’s Honor USA, says that one of the companies’ priorities for 2018 is to expand in Latin America. It’s unclear if that will be through opening offices or inking agreements with local agents such as telecom operators. Analysts expect that Huawei will look at Mexico (where they already have an office), Argentina, Colombia, and Brazil.

China Sinopec vende sus activos petroleros en Argentina a mexicana Vista por 500-600 mln dlr — Reuters
Sinopec has agreed to sell its Argentina assets to the Mexican firm Vista Oil & Gas for about $500-600m in cash.  YPF and Pluspetrol were also vying for the assets, which are mostly in Santa Cruz. Sinopec had bought the assets from Occidental in 2010 for $2.45b, but last year had expressed concern about the decline in economic conditions and “problems of social stability” around the assets. 

China reclama a México 600 mdd por la cancelación del tren a Querétaro — Proceso
China reclama a México 11 mil millones por cancelación del Tren México-Querétaro — Aristegui Noticias
China is asking Mexico to pay MXN11.3b ($600m) for having cancelled the México-Querétaro High Speed Rail project in 2014, as well as running a second bid round for the project in 2015. China — on behalf of China Railway Construction Corporation, China Railway Construction Corporation International and CSR Corporation Limited — is bringing the claim under the countries’ 2008 bilateral investment treaty.

Floricultores, activos en los mercados de Japón y Corea — Portafolio
Colombia flower growers did a road show through Seoul, Tokyo, and Osaka.


Groups from China invest in construction of grain silos in Brazil – Macauhub
The Famagalli Group in Mato Grosso is expanding it’s proposed construction of 60,000 tonne silos from 10 to 30, at the request of prospective Chinese investors in it’s NovaLog FIP investment vehicle to fund the project.

China Merchants Port Holdings Group authorised to buy company in Brazil – Macauhub
The Brazilian government, through it's Administrative Council of Economic Defense (CADE) has signed off on the purchase of port operator TCP Participações by China Merchants Port Holdings (CMPort).

China rising — Trinidad and Tobago Newsday
In an op-ed, TT Newsday discusses concerns about the Chinese-Trinidad relationship that transcend the recent PM invitation kerfuffle

CAOA Chery revela detalhes sobre início das operações — Notícias Automotivas
Details on the operations of the CAOA Chery joint venture announced last month.

Por cierre de locales, comerciantes chinos protestan en embajada de su país en Bogotá — Pulzo
Chinese shopkeepers in Bogotá protested in front of the Chinese Embassy in response to the closure of several of Chinese-owned stores by Colombian tax authorities.

Chile: investigan al presidente del Senado por tráfico de migrantes y coimas — Infobae
Abogado de empresario vinculado a presunto tráfico de migrantes explica vínculo con Zaldívar — La Tercera
Andrés Zaldívar, president of the Chilean Senate, is being investigated for being linked with a company that was bringing undocumented Chinese workers into Chile and engaged in bribery. The company owner claims that he doesn’t have any relationship with Zaldívar beyond selling him campaign materials, which he says were sold to other politicians, as well. 

Los avances y los desafíos con China — Diario Concepción
The local newspaper in the Bío Bío region of Chile — which has been active in exporting to China — discusses the successes and challenges of the region’s relationship with China.

China donará a Perú material para la defensa — Prensa Latina
China is giving $18m in humanitarian and disaster relief equipment to Peru’s defense ministry.

Argentina y China firmaron el primer contrato de financiamiento gobierno a gobierno — Infobae
Argentina and China sign $331.5mn contract to finance Cauchari solar parks — BNamericas
The Cauchari Solar Park isn’t just good for the environment - it’s also good for bilateral relations. The governments of China and Argentina signed their first government-to-government  financing contract for the park. Despite the change in political orientation two years ago, the Argentine government is still willing to look for ways to work with Chinese firms.

Tuvo lugar en Beijing el Foro de Cooperación de Inversión en Capacidad Productiva China-América Latina — China Radio International
Beijing hosted the China-Latin America Productive Capacity Investment Forum last week, which saw participation by China’s National Development Reform Commission (NDRC), National Development Commission, delegates from Jamaica, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, and Cuba.

Rio Tinto, Tianqi y Albemarle: la lista corta por el paquete de SQM que complica al Estado de Chile — El Mostrador
Rio Tinto, Tianqi, and Albemarle are the Chilean shortlist to purchase Potash Corp’s third of lithium giant Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM). Supposedly the Chilean government is concerned by Rio Tinto’s lack of experience in lithium; Tianqi’s Chinese state ownership; and Albermarle’s dominance of the industry.

CEO de Codelco busca aprender sobre extracción de litio en China — América Economía
Codelco chief Nelson Pizarro spent the week in Asia, where he said he visited with research institutes there to learn about lithium extraction. He also says that — while Codelco doesn’t currently have lithium activities — ten different companies have approached them about exploration agreements.

Siguen en descenso las exportaciones de soja argentina a China — La Nación
While Chinese soy imports are up 16%, Argentina has seen soy sales to China for the year through October is down 24% compared to last year. Uruguay (up 44%) and Brazil (25%) are making up the difference.

Llega a su fin la Expo China - México — 20 minutos
Mexico City’s World Trade Center hosted the sixth annual China-Mexico Expo last week.

Candidato presidencial Guillier: "Cada vez que China crece, Chile crece” — Xinhua
Following on last week’s comments by his competitor in the Chilean presidential runoff, Alejandro Guillier looks to establish his bona fides in an interview with Xinhua: “every time China grows, Chile grows.

China quer construir ferrovia atravessando o Brasil — Portal Pebão
China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) is still bullish on Brazil’s East-West Integration Railway (Ferrovia de Integração Oeste-Leste - FOIL) connecting Ilheus to the North-South Railroad; the more paranoid see this as an effort to challenge the Panama Canal.

Pará e China aprofundam parceria para ferrovia — Folha do Progresso
In other Chinese-Brazilian rail news, the state of Pará, the China-Latin America Infrastructure Fund, and China Railways Corporation (CREC) signed an MOU to build a R$14b ($4.3b), 1,300 km Pará Railroad connecting the northern Porto de Barcarena to the existing North-South Railroad.

BAIC to export cars from Mexico to US, Canada in 2018 —
It’s an exciting plan, but there’s a catch:

Yang Nanhua, director general of BAIC in Mexico, said the plan would go into action "unless something drastic happens with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).”

The end of the Nicaragua Canal? — Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide
The question implies there was any real chance of a canal being built across Nicaragua to begin with.

Chile gets ready for arrival of Chinese pears — Fresh Plaza
While it looks like a coal-to-Newcastle headline, this is an example of how trade benefits both sides: 

"The containers have three high quality pear varieties that Chile doesn't produce, and that will surely be an opportunity for the national consumer to enjoy new types of high quality pears,” said Ronald Bown, the President of ASOEX.

Gobierno busca relanzar acuerdo comercial con China — El Observador
Uruguay continues to look for a solution to the Mercosur puzzle. With Brazil still against a free trade agreement with China — and Mercosur and proximity making that a credible veto — Montevideo is considering creative options, such as bilateral agreements that would cover areas of mutual interest, while falling short of a full FTA. Let’s see if Beijing is interested. 

Brasil e China avançam nas negociações de Memorando para incrementar comércio de serviços — Comex do Brasil
Showing that Brazil isn’t completely against trade with China, the two countries have moved forward in negotiating an MOU to increase the trade in services between the two countries.

Empresa chinesa deve construir refinaria de petróleo no Maranhão, diz secretário do Ministério de Energia — Globo
Brazil’s Secretary for Petroleum, Gas, and Biofuels at the Ministry of Mines & Energy, Márcio Felix, says that he is in talks with Chinese firms that are looking at spending $7-10b in Maranhão to build an oil refinery that is going to process Iranian oil for domestic construction. No Chinese firms are named. We’ll see.

Del 30 de noviembre al 10 diciembre viajará gobernador de Zacatecas a China — El Sol de Zacatecas
Zacatecas governor Alejandro Tello Cristerna is on a ten-day trip to China, where he’ll stop in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou to promote “Zacatecas as a strategic partner 2017."

Comercio con Asia representa 42,2% del intercambio comercial de Chile a octubre — Portal Portuario
Chile’s National Customs Service (SNA) reports that trade with Asia represents 42% of Chile’s trade in the year through October, and is up 9.5% from last year. That increase was driven by mineral (three quarters of exports and up 13%); non-mineral exports are up only 3%.

In Peru’s Deserts, Melting Glaciers Are a Godsend (Until They’re Gone) — NYT
Are the happy days of Peru as a specialty fruits exporter numbered? A lavishly illustrated piece about how meltwater from glaciers is fueling the bumper crop of blueberries that are headed to China, among other places.

Gro Intelligence: China tem papel desproporcional na exportação do Brasil — Dinheiro Rural
The head of Gro Intelligence, the global agricultural data and analytics software company, says that China has a disproportionate role in Brazilian agricultural exports.

'E&P': Brasil e China fortalecem parceria no mercado de petróleo e gás — Jornal do Brasil
Brunno Braga of E&P sees the relationship between China and Brazil evolving. Where previously the relationship was commerce, he now sees investment taking a greater role, noting Chinese activity in the pre-salt oil fields as well as Petrobras’ contract with China Development Bank. 

Planejamento: Prioridade do fundo Brasil-China é infraestrutura — Valor
Jorge Arbache Filho, International Affairs Secretary at Brazil’s Ministry of Planning, sees the $20b Brazil-China Fund as an infrastructure fund: “We can see $117b in possible investments for China in Brazil.”


Embajador de Corea destaca crecimiento económico de RD — El Caribe
Valentino Ji Zen Tang, the Korean Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, praised the work of Dominican President Danilo Medina and the performance of the Dominican economy at a ceremony to open a new chancery for the embassy in Santo Domingo. 

Minsa implementará servicio de Telesalud en frontera con Colombia — Exitosa Noticias
39,230 Peruvians will benefit from telemedicine services under an MOU signed by the Ministry of Health (Minsa) and Korea’s Gachon University Gil Medical Center (GUGMC).

Green Cross to supply immunoglobulin drug to Brazil — Korea Times
Green Cross Corp. has won a contract to supply $42.9m of immunoglobulin drug IVIG-SN to Brazil next year, an increase of 67% on this year.

Mercosur busca acuerdo comercial con Corea del Sur — El Economista
Uruguay is pushing for Mercosur to do a trade deal with Korea. The two countries agreed this week to pursue the issues next year when Uruguay holds the Mercosur rotating presidency.

Acuerdan profundizar lazo bilateral Argentina y la República de Corea — Xinhua
Argentina negocia con Corea intercambio de productos vegetales — Marco Trade News
Argentina isn’t waiting around, and is opening up  to Korea. In agriculture exports, the first oranges were sent this year, and the two sides are now negotiation for the export of berries, limes, and beans. Korea is looking to export Asian pears, as well as exchange information on other plants, such as cactus. Cultural and scientific exchange agreements were inked, as well.

Incertidumbre por TLCAN, oportunidad de negocios en Asia: embajador de Corea — Milenio
Beeho Chun, Korean ambassador to Mexico, sees a business opportunity in Asia for Mexican companies concerned about the future of NAFTA.


Toyota cree que puede llegar al millón de unidades en Argentina — El Cronista
Toyota is looking to put the petal to the metal and reach one million units sold in Argentina this year, thanks to it’s plant in Zárate (which will still export 70% of it’s production).

Oficializan apertura del banco japonés Mizuho en León — El Sol de León
After opening it’s first Mexico branch in March, Mizuho has opened a second branch in León, Guanajuato, to attend to the auto and industrial belt in the region.


Cabinet clears signing of India-Brazil investment treaty — India Today
The Indian cabinet gave a thumbs up to an investment cooperation and facilitation treaty between India and Brazil. The treaty is expected to increase investment flows between the two countries.


UAE, Mexico advancing investment relations — Zawya
The UAE Ambassador to Mexico Ahmed Hatem Al Menhali met with Head of the Mexican Senate Foreign Relations, Asia and Pacific Ocean Commission, Téofilo Torres Corz.

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