Bolivia gets in the lithium game

As we noted last week, Germany has had a bigger stake in Bolivia’s lithium reserves than China, ever since ACI Systems was awarded a partnership to develop the Uyuni salt flats. Well this week, everything changed.

On Wednesday, government-owned Yacimientos de Litio Boliviano (YLB) announced that it will hold a 51% stake in a joint venture with China's Xinjiang TPEA in $2.3b worth of lithium projects in the Coipasa and Pastos Grandes salt flats. The investment split is unclear: "The Chinese firm will provide initial investment and YLB will pay its share with future lithium production, YLB’s executive manager Juan Carlos Montenegro said.” YLB says it may also invest in a lithium battery plant in China with TBEA.

TBEA — relatively unknown in the Americas — is a privately held company based out of China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region. TBEA and its head Zhang Jianxin have become strong proponent of China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), with Zhang saying that "TBEA’s business is focused on BRI, a comprehensive and continuous developing strategy” (张建新表示,特变电工的业务也是围绕着“一带一路“战略全面的、持续的展开,这是我们既定的发展战略。). Worryingly, TBEA has been involved in a BRI project that has sent two Prime Ministers to jail in Kyrgyzstan.

Chinese coverage of the news has been colorful: 155亿元,中企终于啃下玻利维亚锂矿这块“硬骨头” (“With ¥15.5 billion, Chinese firm finally gets a bone to chew on in Bolivian lithium mine.”). And local press crows that — on the heels of Tianqi’s increased stake in Chile’s SQM, as well as Argentine investments — China has successfully entered the Bolivian lithium market (中国成功进军玻利维亚巨大的锂资源市场). But the BRI remains notably absent from the news, even though Bolivia was one of the first Latin American countries to join.

Bolivia is a country that deserve to benefit from its natural resources, and has struggled to do so in the past, such as with the natural gas fields in Eastern Bolivia. While this investment has the potential give Bolivia a boost, the lack of investment in the value-added lithium chain — like that in Chile— means the upside is limited. With lots of financing in natural resources and not as much oversight, we are left asking the question: is Bolivia the next Ecuador?

Top Stories

CNBV autoriza operar en México al banco coreano KEB Hana— El Economista 

Bancos asiáticos ganan terreno en México; KEB Hana iniciará operaciones— El Heraldo de México 

Regulador autoriza nuevo banco en México: el coreano KEB Hana— El Financiero

Korea’s KEB Hana gets the green light to open its doors in Mexico. 

GoPro traerá producción de China a México— Eje Central

Digital camera-maker GoPro is moving production from China to Mexico.

Chinese firm to build new PoS hospital block— TT Guardian

Shang­hai Con­struc­tion has been awarded a contract to build the $1b new central block of Port-of-Spain’s General Hospital.

UNCTAD: favorece a México “guerra” entre EU y China— El Universal

En la guerra comercial de EU-China, México se beneficiaría, dice Unctad— Tribuna

Brasil se beneficia com tarifas da China à soja dos EUA, diz Unctad— Estado de Minas

China compra dos mlls. de toneladas de soja estadounidense para facilitar negociaciones— El Comercio

Guerra comercial China - EEUU: por qué México y Chile podrían ser beneficiados— Teletrece

Colombia exportaría US$2.000 millones más por guerra comercial— Portafolio

A cuestas con la Doctrina Monroe— La Razón

Trégua comercial da China com EUA impacta exportação de soja brasileira— CGN

US sees China setback brewing in El Salvador— Washington Examiner

Why China wouldn't stop the US military in Venezuela— Washington Examiner 

The US-China Trade War Could Spread To Venezuela And Africa— Forbes 

South America Is a Battlefield in the New Cold War— Bloomberg

China says it will buy more soybeans, but American farmers see a bleak future— South China Morning Post 

Farmers celebrate China's plan to buy 5M tons of soybeans— UPI

Trade war.

No es solo Maduro, también es China— La Heine

Geopolítica y Venezuela— Mundiario

China e Rússia apoiam Bolívar contra Monroe na Venezuela— Brasil 24/7

“En Venezuela, China es la variable que lo cambia todo”— La Silla Vacilla

China pide un diálogo pacífico para resolver problemas en Venezuela— Forbes México 

Venezuela's PDVSA seeks to barter its oil with India— Reuters

Venezuelan opposition leader urges China to abandon Maduro— Guardian

Venezuela’s Guaido seeks talks with China— Malaysian Reserve

Japan's stance on Venezuela remains vague— Japan Today

The discussion over China’s role in Venezuela continues, while Japan remains non-committal.

China — LAC

Despojando para alimentar al gigante: China y el agronegocio en Chile— El Desconcierto

Cómo las cerezas de Chile conquistaron China y convirtieron a Hernán Garcés en el mayor exportador de esta fruta del mundo— BBC

El arándano chileno busca ser un sustituto de las palomitas de maíz en China— Tribuna

China amplía su ventaja como primer socio de Chile y ya abarca el 30% del comercio nacional— La Tercera 

Tevin Andrew: Carriacou laborers not benefitting from Chinese projects— The New Today

Carlos Alvarado viajará por América Latina, Caribe y China— El Mundo

Argentina recibe 1.000 toneladas de rieles provenientes de China para modernizar sistema ferroviario— China.org

China ‘aprende’ a tomar café e cria mercado promissor para produto brasileiro— Gazeta do Povo

Más de 300 buses eléctricos chinos rodarán por varias ciudades de América Latina en 2019— N más 1

Michael Reid: "América Latina ya no debe ser una región de dictaduras”— Diario Correo

Las exportaciones crecieron 10,4% por petróleo y compras desde China— La República

A China está crescendo menos. E isso vai ter impactos no Brasil— Gazeta do Povo 

Quinua peruana: Primer envío a China se realizaría este año— Gestión 

Negócios com a China ou Negócios da China?— Conexão Politica

FGV firma parceria com Conselho Empresarial Brasil-China— O Cafezinho

Empresa china HIKVision establecerá operaciones en Zona Libre de Colón— Panamá América

Cae producción de autos japoneses en México— El Sol de México 

Chinese-owned mine gets twin financing in Peru— Latin Lawyer

Embajador de China en Chile: “No tenemos ninguna intención ni posibilidad de controlar los recursos de Chile”— La Tercera 

Move over Chile, Norway wants a bigger slice of China's salmon market— IntraFish 

Korea — LAC

Empresas salvadoreñas buscan exportar a Corea del Sur— Equilibrium

Governador Romeu Zema recebe embaixador da República da Coreia— Jornal de Uberaba

Japan — LAC

Abertura do Japão para carne uruguaia pode beneficiar o Brasil— Portal DBO

Hitachi cierra su oficina en Buenos Aires y controlará la región desde Brasil— Cronista 

Hitachi cierra sus oficinas en la Argentina, pero seguirá produciendo en el país— La Nación 

Japón financia un proyecto de electrificación rural en Perú— PV Magazine

India — LAC

La firma india UPL tiene una vía para que México deje de importar maíz— Forbes México

With China slowing down, India’s burgeoning role in Latin America assumes significance — Financial Express

China’s slowdown is an Opportunity for India in Latin America Relation and Growth — Midway Chronicle

Final frontier: Why India’s booming Pharma companies are finding it tough to get into Argentinean Market— Financial Express 

India, Peru to hold next round of FTA talks in March in Lima— The Times of India

GCC — LAC

“Japón y Oriente Medio son mercados muy importantes para el mango mexicano para los próximos años”— Agroinformacion 

Brazil exports to Arab world hit $11.5bln in 2018— Reuters

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required