BEIJING — The Institute of the Americas (IOA) and China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) signed an agreement on May 14 to extend cooperative relations through 2015.

At the signing ceremony in CICIR’s Beijing headquarters, IOA President Ambassador Charles Shapiro commented on the bright future between the two institutions. “We are deepening our relationships with Chinese research institutions to further explore the collaborations on Latin America.”

CICIR President Ji Zhiye emphasized the importance of the work the two organizations are doing to strengthen the relationship between China and Latin America. “We truly value the cooperation between CICIR and IOA and look forward to our future collaborations.”

The signing ceremony was followed by a day-long conference at CICIR on trends in Latin American development and cooperation between China, the U.S. and Latin America. On May 17, the IOA and CICIR organized an executive roundtable in Shanghai titled, “Promoting Win-Win Economic Cooperation between China and Latin America.”
During the inauguration of the Beijing conference, CICIR Vice President Yuan Peng said the “China-Latin America relationship is enjoying its best period in history. We are both developing and we share many common interests”.

Argentine Ambassador to China Gustavo Alberto Martino commented that the China-Argentina relation is “exciting and dynamic” because both countries are emerging economies and have opportunities to complement each other economically.

Peruvian Ambassador to China Gonzalo Gutierrez said Peru is trying to “change the productive matrix of the country and to include more science and technology in the contemporary relations between China and Peru.”

“We need GUANXI (关系, ‘relations’) to create and establish the strong ties between China and Colombia,” said Minister Plenipotentiary of the Colombian Embassy in China Francisco Rodriguez Caicedo.  “The ‘threat’ and competition between U.S. and China is over hyped. We need to avoid the trap of the ‘confrontational theories’ advocated by international media,” he said.

Jiang Shixue, a Latin America expert with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), proposed that China and the U.S. set up joint investment funds for Latin American infrastructure projects.

MEXCHAM Executive President Efren Calvo Adame pointed out that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s visit to Boao Forum earlier this year revealed positive signs for Mexican exports to China in the future.

At the May 17 executive roundtable at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies,  Vice President Chen Dongxiao touched on the energy sector in his opening remarks. “The challenge is how to make our energy cooperation sustainable between China and Latin America,” he said.

Luis Vera, founding partner of Vera & Carvajal in Mexico City, pointed out that it is crucial for extractive industries to pay attention to environment and local community. He said Chinese investors need to focus on the residents of local communities to ensure effective  investment strategies.

Erik Bethel, partner and co-founder of SinoLatin Capital, commented that the barriers between China and Latin America “can only be addressed with informal and friendly human interaction.” He said the driving force of the China-Latin American energy trade is the urbanization of China and the resulting change in consumer patterns.

Bethel expressed concerns that oil prices might be going down due to shale gas, but was confident about the future of the energy, particularly lithium and battery technology.

Vanina de Verneuil, senior associate at Shearman & Sterling, pointed out two changes in the nature of the China-Latin American economic ties: first, China’s need for natural resources has given way to more outbound investment into Latin America, which means more players and industries are getting involved; second, the targets have diversified for Chinese investments in Latin America, in terms of destination countries (from Brazil to Colombia, Mexico and Peru), industries (from extractive to infrastructure and automobiles) and patterns (from government to private).

Thomas Wong, founding partner of CWCC, promoted Hong Kong as the platform to breach the gap between China and Latin America in terms of commercial relationships. He adopted a “Blue Ocean” strategy to explore the Latin American market when he initiated the Latin Desk in 2006 and now has more than 300 clients in Latin America and Spain.

Jason Huck, senior vice president of China-Americas corporate banking at HSBC in Shanghai, said international banks will play an increasingly important role in multinational investments, both inbound and outbound between China and Latin America, particularly as China moves toward making the RMB an international currency.