Colombia Eyes Stronger Links With China to Boost Trade



Andrea Jaramillo | Bloomberg

For years Colombia stood out as the major Latin American country with the smallest Chinese investment. Now, the two nations are getting ready to sign a deal to strengthen commercial ties as China prepares to pour money into projects from infrastructure to mining.

The agreement, which is being finalized, will include elements of China’s massive infrastructure program known as the “Belt and Road” initiative, as well as agreements on everything from politics to economics and culture, according to China’s Ambassador to Bogota Lan Hu, who says Huawei and ZTE are prepared to build out Colombia’s 5G network.

While China has invested heavily in neighboring Venezuela and Ecuador, that hasn’t been the case with Colombia, traditionally Washington’s strongest ally in the region.

That dynamic is rapidly evolving, even as coronavirus disrupts big economic ambitions like Belt and Road. At 3.3% last year, Colombia’s growth was the fastest among major Latin American economies. Chinese firms have committed billions of dollars in the country since last year, winning bids to build Bogota’s first metro line and a regional rail line, and acquiring a gold mine.

The deal that’s in the works would pave the way for more, including possibly in renewable energy, technology and agriculture. China is also looking to import Colombian flowers, meat and dairy products.

Colombian President Ivan Duque made a state visit to Beijing in July, and Chinese President Xi Jinping is considering a reciprocal trip possibly this year.

It’s unclear how the flowering relationship will go over with the Trump administration, which has a wary eye on China’s growing influence around the world.

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