For years, while China has spent a lot in Latin America, Colombia – Washington's closest regional ally – has stood out as one of the leading countries with the least Chinese investment. That is changing and fast.
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In recent months, Chinese companies have reached agreements for the first metro line of Bogotá, a railroad that will connect with neighboring cities and a gold miner, whose total investment is greater than that achieved in the last 15 years, according to the tracker of Chinese investments of the American Enterprise Institute.RELATED
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Colombia's links with the United States, especially after the launch of the Plan Colombia anti-narcotics program in 2000, have kept the country attentive to the north. But since the Trump era has questioned the reliability of the US, Colombia is "diversifying its relations," according to Margaret Myers, director of the Asia and Latin America Program of the Inter-American Dialogue.
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“Several years ago there was concern about angering the US. UU. by getting more involved with China, ”said Myers. “But without a doubt, the United States has not been the same reliable and stable partner under the current leadership of what it was before. He hasn't done anything for us. ”
Although Colombian President Iván Duque is deeply pro-American and partnered with Washington to isolate Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, President Donald Trump criticized him in March last year for not being able to stop cocaine trafficking.
Trump said Duque "has done nothing for us" and threatened to "decertify" Colombia as a partner in the war on drugs. That would bind him to Venezuela, which means that the US UU. It would put an end to most economic aid and would automatically vote against Colombian loans from organizations such as the World Bank.
The White House gave up that threat, and during a visit to Bogotá this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US UU. Values the "important friendship" with Colombia and will continue to prioritize it.
However, Colombians care about the future. Last July, Duke visited Beijing, where President Xi Jinping assured him that China would respect Latin America's right to choose its own development path. China, the world's second largest economy, is constantly searching for new markets and sources of natural resources, even when some of its agreements have failed in poorer countries.
Pan Deng, general secretary of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Charhar Institute in Beijing, says that Colombia has improved conditions for foreign investment and that China is testing new models by joining consortia with foreign companies. China says it is not trying to compete with Washington for political influence, it just wants to invest.
‘IT IS NOT A GEOPOLITIC BATTLE’
On Thursday in Davos, Duke was asked in an interview with Bloomberg if he was worried about the rivalry. "We don't see this as a geopolitical battle," he replied.
“We see this as a call to international investment in the country.
The Bogotá metro was a public tender. A Chinese consortium awarded it to him because his was the best offer. ” The Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism of Colombia, José Manuel Restrepo, said that his goal is not only a greater Chinese investment, but also tourists and the sale of Colombian agricultural products in that country.
There are growing Chinese investments in smaller Colombian industries, such as hotels and consumer industries, said David Mauricio Castrillón, a professor at the Externado University of Colombia. A shared transport service, DiDi Chuxing Inc., began operating last year.
"Colombia does not only mean increasing access to essential commodities for Chinese consumers, but also providing new opportunities for Chinese companies that would otherwise be running out of infrastructure construction possibilities in China," Marczak said.
In October, the state-owned China Harbor Engineering Co. led a group of companies that won the Bogotá metro contract, for more than US $ 4,000 million.
Two months later, another Chinese consortium won a US $ 1,100 million contract to build the railway line. And in December, China's Zijin Mining Group Co. announced that it agreed to buy Continental Gold Inc. for US $ 1 billion, which gives it control of the Buriticá gold project in Colombia.
Mei Xinyu, senior researcher at the Chinese Academy for International Trade and Economic Cooperation (CAITEC), affiliated with the Ministry of Commerce, says that China is not trying to move Colombia away from the United States. UU. You need that stability inherent in that relationship.
"Chinese companies are in Latin America to do business, not to generate political conflicts," Mei said.
“China wants the places in which it invests to have normal relations with the United States, especially if they already have very close ties. A deterioration in economic and political relations between the two countries would affect investments, especially with large infrastructure projects. ”