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October 11, 2018

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The shared future of Argentina and China

EDITOR’S note:

DESPITE the great distance between the two countries, China and Argentina have much in common. Under the Belt and Road Initiative, China is supporting infrastructure projects in Argentina, including nuclear plants and railroads. Meanwhile, an increasing number of Argentinian products are finding their way onto the Chinese market.

During a time of increasing protectionism, China and Argentina are keen to increase cooperation. At a recent forum in Shanghai, Diego Guelar, Argentinian Ambassador to China, shared his thoughts on relations between the two countries and his country’s commitment to G20 with Shanghai Daily staff writer Cao Xinyu. The Forum, “G20, Globalization and Belt and Road Initiative: Perspective for a Shared Future,” was sponsored by the Institute of Global Studies, Shanghai University and CARI — Argentine Council for International Relations.

Q: Argentina has important roles in the Belt and Road Initiative. Most cooperation concerns infrastructure. In what other areas do you expect increased cooperation with China?

A: The Belt and Road Initiative is an extension of our strategic partnership with China. It gives many countries more options. The initiative focuses on infrastructure, agriculture and business, but I think the cultural aspect is equally important.

Culture is an essential dimension of international relations. Banks, companies and trade organizations have well established means of interacting. But through popular culture, for instance, people get to know one another. Cultural challenges are still there and, unfortunately, prejudices still exist. Prejudices and ignorance are overcome by getting to know each other.

Q: Argentina has a distinctive culture — wine, the tango and, in recent years, the Argentinian film has gained popularity in China. From your experience, how is cultural exchange progressing?

A: It’s growing. We have a lot of local initiatives at the embassy, like the Carlos Gardel tango school and a lot of things going on in football, gastronomy and popular music. When people get to know each other, we’ll find that we’re not as different as we may think, and that lays the foundation for better cooperation.

Q: China is Argentina’s second largest trading partner. We import huge amounts of soybean, dairy products and beef from Argentina. Is a free trade agreement on the horizon?

A: We’re related to our neighbors. We have an integration agreement, which we call Mercosur (Southern Common Market), with Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay. To make a free trade agreement, we have to reach a consensus.

In the case of Argentina, we’re analyzing the feasibility of free trade deals — how it can work with other countries and China. We have not yet reached agreement, but we are keen on the idea.

Uruguay is very clearly in favor of a free trade deal. We have to discuss this with Brazil, which is now having presidential elections. For Argentina, China is the second largest trade partner, but Brazil is our largest. Meanwhile, China is Brazil’s largest trade partner. So that’s a triangle. China is the most important market for Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina. I really hope in the next year or two, we can sit together to begin feasibility analysis of a free trade agreement.

Q: The demand for imported goods in China is stronger than ever. What plans does Argentina have to satisfy this demand?

A: We are working very hard on that. We already have agreements with Alibaba and to increase ways for consumers to find Argentinian products on their platforms. Thanks to Alibaba, one of our most popular products, red shrimp, are available to Chinese consumers.

We are also reaching agreements with local companies to build distribution hubs in Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangzhou. These hubs will work closely with the embassy, our government and Argentinian exporters.

With these distribution hubs, plus agreements with e-commerce platforms, more Argentinian goods will be brought to what is now the most important market in the world.

Q: Argentina is committed to meeting 20 percent of its electricity demand with renewable energy by 2025. How will the country achieve this goal?

A: We’re working on it. We have launched public tenders for renewable energy programs in solar and wind power.

In the northern part of the country, with the cooperation of China, we are building the biggest solar plant in Latin America. About 90 percent of our renewable energy programs are associated with Chinese companies and Chinese banks. Thanks to them, we have the technology and finance, which is just one more reason to increase our cooperation with China.


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