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Embark on a New Era of Cooperation between China and Latin America and the Caribbean

On January 22, 2018, the Second Ministerial Meeting of the China-CELAC Forum was successfully held in Santiago, Chile. This is the first time that the Ministerial Meeting of the Forum is held in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). During the meeting, foreign ministers and government representatives from China and LAC exchanged in-depth views on the comprehensive cooperation between them and explored means to integrate their development strategies. It is noteworthy that the "Belt and Road" initiative has been the highlight of cooperation at the Meeting. The Second Ministerial Meeting has opened a new chapter of the cooperation between China and LAC.

Though far apart, China and LAC have a long history of friendship and cooperation. As early as the second half of the 16th century, the "China Ship" loaded with silk and porcelain set sail from the ports of Fujian and Guangdong in China and left for LAC, opening the way for friendly exchanges between China and LAC. Thanks to generations of concerted efforts by both sides, the friendship and cooperation between China and LAC have grown from strength to strength since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. In 1960, Cuba took the lead in establishing diplomatic ties with China in the Western Hemisphere, which opens a new chapter in the development of China-LAC relations. In the new century, the friendship and cooperation between China and LAC have been maintaining a robust momentum. Particularly since the outbreak of the international financial crisis in 2008, China and LAC have shown solidarity in overcoming the difficult period and achieved a quantum leap in their cooperation by building on their respective strengths. In 2012, a series of initiatives put forward by the Chinese leaders on the overall cooperation between China and LAC was positively supported by LAC countries. In August 2012, China established a regular dialogue mechanism with the foreign ministers of the "troika" of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (the predecessor of Dialogue of Foreign Ministers of China and the "Quartet" of CELAC). Since 2013, Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping exchanged extensive and in-depth views with leaders of LAC countries on pushing forward overall cooperation between China and LAC and reached important consensus. In January 2014, the 2nd Summit of CELAC adopted the "Special Declaration on the Establishment of the China-CELAC Forum", laying the foundation for China-LAC to initiate the overall cooperation process. In July 2014, President Xi had a historic meeting with LAC leaders in Brasilia. Since then, China and LAC established a comprehensive cooperative partnership. They decided to launch the China-CELAC Forum and hold its first Ministerial Meeting as soon as possible. From January 8 to January 9, 2015, the First Ministerial Meeting of the China-CELAC Forum was held as scheduled. The Meeting marked the official launch of the China-CELAC Forum mechanism. China-LAC relationship moves toward a new era of comprehensive cooperation.

Over the past three years, following the guideline of the “Declaration of Beijing of the First Ministerial Meeting of the China-CELAC Forum”, China and LAC have worked hand in hand to solidly push forward the construction of China-CELAC Forum, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields and jointly play the symphony of China-LAC comprehensive cooperative partnership.

The mutual trust between China and LAC has been continuously enhanced. President Xi Jinping visited LAC three times in four years and traveled across 10 LAC countries and met LAC leaders in bilateral and multilateral occasions. China and LAC have reached broad consensuses on issues of global governance, major international and regional issues, building a community of a shared future between China and LAC and a more just and reasonable international order. China and LAC support each other on issues that involve each other's core interests and major concerns.

China and LAC enjoyed closer pragmatic cooperation. Based on the actual needs of each other and with capacity-building as a breakthrough point, the two sides actively promoted the "1 + 3 + 6" cooperation framework (i.e. guided by the China-Latin American and Caribbean Countries Cooperation Plan (2015-2019), utilizing trade, investment and financial cooperation as driving forces, and identifying energy and resources, infrastructure construction, agriculture, manufacturing, scientific and technological innovation and information technology as cooperation priorities) and achieved important milestones. The number of overseas enterprises set up by China enterprises in LAC exceeded 2000, with direct investments in LAC reaching 27.23 billion US dollars in 2016, which is an increase of 115.9% over the same period of 2015. From January to October 2017, the trade volume between China and LAC reached 210.29 billion US dollars, which is an increase of 18.3% over the same period of 2016. The trade structure is more optimized and the agricultural trade becomes a new growth point.

Over the past three years, China and LAC strengthened people-to-people ties. The cooperation in culture, education, tourism, media and other fields has flourished. Over 1,000 leaders of the political parties from LAC countries have visited China, and 4,000-plus professionals have been to China for training or further education. The China-LAC Science and Technology Partnership and the China-LAC Scientist Exchange Program have been successfully implemented, with 15 scientists from LAC countries going to Chinese research institutes for short-term exchange programs every year. Projects like the China-LAC joint laboratories, demonstration farms and Press Center have come to fruition. The splendid China-LAC Cultural Exchange Year, with its activities across Chinese provinces and cities and in nearly 30 LAC countries, has been the biggest cultural event in the cooperative history of China and LAC. As China opens more routes with LAC, China-LAC tourism cooperation and people's contacts have obviously increased.

"Bosom friends make distance disappear." China-LAC cooperation is based on the common desire of peace and development, based on the shared principles of equality and mutual benefit and based on the genuine friendship and goodwill of both peoples.

In a world full of uncertainties, China and LAC need to work side by side to further enhance cooperation and make positive contributions in accordance with the consensus reached at the Second Ministerial Meeting of the China-CELAC Forum.

First, China and LAC must uphold multilateralism and the free trade regime, oppose protectionism, work for an open world economy and a healthy global governance system, and foster a more open, inclusive and balanced economic globalization that benefits all.

Second, China and LAC should jointly build the Belt and Road, strengthen integration of policy development and deepen pragmatic cooperation in all fields under the Belt and Road framework so as to revitalize the ancient "Pacific Maritime Silk Road" and provide new ideas, inject fresh vitality and explore new prospects for China-LAC comprehensive cooperative partnership.

Third, China and LAC should implement the China-CELAC Joint Plan of Action for Cooperation on Priority Areas (2019-2021). Both sides should promote the cooperation in the areas of politics and security, infrastructure and transport, trade, investment, finance, agriculture, industry, science, technology, environment and cultural exchange.

In accordance with the goal of establishing a comprehensive cooperative partnership based on equality, mutual benefit and common development set by President Xi Jinping and the leaders of LAC, China is willing to work with LAC to deepen the "1 + 3 + 6" cooperation framework, promote the optimization, upgrading and innovation of China-LAC cooperation, create a new cooperation prospect featuring wider fields, better structure, stronger impetus and higher quality and work together to build a community with a shared future for China and LAC.

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