LOS ANGELES — The Institute of the Americas has signed a two-year agreement with the China Institutes for Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) to help strengthen the economic relationship between China and countries in Latin America.

During a Sept. 16 signing ceremony, which took place during a Los Angeles conference titled, “China in Latin America: The New Economic Frontier, ” CICIR Assistant President Peng Yuan said his organization is “joining the IOA in building bridges between our countries to achieve a win-win-win result for all.”

Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow, president of the Institute of the Americas, said, “It is clear that China’s involvement requires serious attention and study.  Latin American governments are seen as natural allies of China. This brings with it a whole new set of issues — social, political and economic.”

As Latin America looks around the globe for new markets, “this is a golden time for China and Latin America to cooperate,” said Yuan, who is the director of the Institute of American Studies at CICIR, a Beijing policy institute funded by the Chinese government.

“Both China and Latin America are rising,” he said. “That is the driving force for China and Latin America to develop our relationship.”

Yuan made his remarks to a sold-out conference organized by the Institute of the Americas,  the University of Southern California Marshall School for International Business Education and Research and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

The conference is the first of three China-Latin America forums that Institute of the Americas is organizing during the fall 2011 period. The conferences are sponsored by the Development Bank of Latin America, also known as CAF.

“The world is shifting, geoeconomically and geopolitically,” Enrique Berrizbeitia, executive vice president of Caracas, Venezuela-based CAF, told the audience at the conference.

Key to that shift is China’s rapid rise in Latin America, he said.

“When I arrived at CAF 15 years ago, we didn’t even mention China,” aid Berrizbeitia. “Now, China is in every conversation.”

The overall relationship has been positive, with Latin America exporting its competitive advantage — raw materials, he said. “That has helped Latin America’s economy remain resilient in the face of the economic recession.”

But he acknowledged that “there are some downsides.”

Latin America’s manufacturing sector “has felt the pressure” from imported Chinese goods, Berrizbeitia said. “In manufacturing, it has been very difficult for Latin America to compete.

“But it not China’s responsibility to tell us how to compete,” he said. “It is our responsibility to take advantage of this relationship in a positive way. This is the game we’re all in as part of the global economy.”

Yuan noted that China’s investment in Latin America is less than 8 percent of U.S. investment in the region.

“The Chinese government is very coolheaded,” Yuan said. “China is still a developing country. We see our investment as more economic, more business-oriented than political.”

China has set several relationships as priorities in Latin America, Yuan said.

The first is the China-Brazil relationship, he said, followed by China’s relationship with “special countries” in Latin America — Cuba and Venezuela, which are run by socialist governments.

The third Western Hemisphere relationship of importance to the Chinese government is with the “emerging countries” such as Chile, Argentina, Mexico and Peru.

The Chinese government has also set as a priority the 12 governments in Latin America that have not recognized the Peoples Republic of China by establishing diplomatic ties.

At the bottom of the list are the US-Latin America-China relationship, the European Union-Latin America-China relationship and the Spain/Portugal-Latin America-China relationship, he said.