By Juan Carlos Capuñay, Ambassador of Peru to the People’s Republic of China
In September 2013, during his visit toKazakhstan, the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinpingproposed the regional integration initiative: “One Belt, One Road”. Accordingto his vision, culture and regional trade in Asia have been the engine forbilateral relations based on mutual confidence and respect. In that sense,culture becomes avehicle to promote inter-civilization dialogue and consensusamong people. While regional trade is a powerful tool for generating exchangesbetween people and promoting common development in the way.
The “One Belt, One Road Initiative” has acomprehensive approach, oriented towards increasing mutual cultural knowledgeand incentives for achieving in clusive development. It is not, whatsoever, thepromotion of a single development model. On the contrary, it advocates dialogueand a renewed vision of mutually beneficial cooperation based on differenttracks of development.
Moreover, in the “One Belt, One RoadInitiative”, regional integration facilitates communication channels toeaseinvestment and trade. It is, therefore, the basis for renewing the physicalconnectivity of the ancient Silk Road, which once built the trade routes ofChina with the rest of Asia, Africa and Europe.
From a digital global perspective, LatinAmerica and the Caribbean can also be included in this promising initiative. Itcan be so through the academic cooperation and the trade and investment linksit has with China in order to build a modern Silk Digital Road. In thatdirection and as a point of departure, China and the region could use thedifferent agreements their chambers of commerce and private organizationsalready have. To move forward they could strengthen their exchange of knowledgeand development experiences, transfers of technology, scientific and innovation cooperation and the preservation of indigenous technology.
China's institutional connectivity withLatin America and the Caribbean under the “One Belt, One Road Initiative” canmake use of e-commerce technology, such as electronic platforms, to benefit SMEs, inclusive development, cultural exchange, trade and investment. Today,institutional connectivity offers a wider reach than what trade and investmentused to do.
The “One Belt, One Road Initiative” is alsolinked to regional financial institutions.Today, these institutions offerfinancing in areas such as capacity production, infrastructure, creativeindustries, SMEs, and structural reforms. In Asia, the role of theBeijing-based Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank (AIIB) should behighlighted, as well as the New Development Bank (NDB), based in Shanghai, andcreated by the largest emerging economies, BRICS. In Latin America, this rolecan be fulfilled by CAF Latin American Development Bank, which has an importantparticipation in comprehensive national and regional development programs.Additionally, it has important links with institutions in China and Asia and isalso of the financing schemes advocated in the Forum of China and Community ofLatin American and Caribbean States - China-CELAC Forum, created on theinitiative of President Xi in 2013. Linking CAF with other Asian financialinstitutions and letting them prepare and develop projects together couldfacilitate the footprint of Latin America in the “One Belt, One Road Initiative”. Needless to say, this would provide a tremendous and historic opportunity forsustainable development in Latin America.
Furthermore, the “One Belt, One Roadinitiative” can be seen as part of the Regional trade Architecture envisionedby the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum – APEC in thepromotion of Trade Liberalization, Investment Facilitation, and TechnicalCooperation for Development. According to the road map approved by the EconomicLeaders of the Asia Pacific Summit held in Peru in 2016, APEC is committed tothe negotiation of the Free Trade Area of Asia Pacific (FTAAP). This could beenhanced by the inclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership(RCEP) in Asia and the Pacific Alliance in Latin America. Due to the importanceof the “One Belt, One Road Initiative” for regional economic development inAsia; plus the increasing economic interdependence of Asia with Latin Americaand the Caribbean, this Initiative could be linked with APEC and its regionalgoals.
Finally, I believe it is important tosingle out the case of Peru as one of the most representative for a LatinAmerican and Caribbean presence in the “One Belt, One Road Initiative”. Incultural terms it has the largest Chinese community in Latin America and thesecond one in the Western Hemisphere. It is the largest destination in LatinAmerica for mining investments and it has a significant number of Chinesecompanies in the sector. Bilateral trade is diversified and it has the highestgrowth rate in Latin America. It has signed a FTA with China and itsComprehensive Strategic Partnership is guided by a Strategic Economic DialogueCommittee. Peru is the only Pacific coast country that is part of the AsianInvestment Infrastructure Bank (AIIB) and it maintains a constructive dialoguewith the New Development Bank -NDB. CAF Latin American Development Bank’soffice in Peru has a specialized structure for its relations with China and therest of Asia.
President Xi’s Initiative is instrumentalfor national and regional development in Asia, which benefits can also beoutsourced to Latin America and other regions. The “One Belt, One RoadInitiative” is both a Global and Regional project, but it is also aTranspacific Digital Bridge towards Latin America and the Caribbean.