The BRI and Latin America: Prospects and Implications

The Inter-American Dialogue and Universidad del Pacífico will convene approximately thirty top experts on the China-Latin America relationship, including from the public and private sectors in Latin America, to examine the effects of Latin America’s recent incorporation into the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), especially for the already nineteen countries that have signed bilateral BRI cooperation agreements with China. The group will jointly assess various developments in the relationship since the BRI was extended to the region, including trends in energy and infrastructure development, growing technological cooperation, and Latin American efforts to encourage and shape BRI-related engagement. Participants will also consider whether and how the Initiative itself is evolving and what that will mean for future Chinese economic and diplomatic engagement with the Latin American region.



9:00AM – 9:15AM: WELCOME

Cynthia Sanborn, Universidad del Pacífico
Margaret Myers, Inter-American Dialogue

9:15AM – 10:45AM: Session 1 – The Belt and Road and Latin America

Lead-off speakers:
Chen Taotao, Tsinghua University (by video)
Rosario Santa Gadea, Universidad del Pacífico
Xiaoyu Pu, University of Nevada, Reno

Moderator: Margaret Myers, Inter-American Dialogue

The Belt and Road Initiative was officially extended to the Latin American and Caribbean region during the 2018 China-CELAC Ministerial Forum. Since then, nineteen countries in the region have signed bilateral cooperation agreements with China. What does the extension of the BRI to Latin America mean for the region in practical terms? Has the region seen a marked shift in or expansion of engagement since the BRI’s global extension? What do governments in the region stand to gain from signing BRI agreements? To what extent BRI policy shifting in Beijing, and what will that mean for China’s relations with the region? And how will US policy on China-LAC relations affect BRI-related outreach in the region?

10:45AM – 11:00AM: Coffee Break

11:00AM – 12:45PM: Session 2 – Toward Enhanced Cooperation on Sustainable Infrastructure Investment

Lead-off speakers:
Viviana Garcia, Corporate attorney
Matt Ferchen, Mercator Institute for China Studies
Fenghua TAO, ICBC Peru Bank
Gaston Fernandez, Hogan Lovells
Rebecca Ray, Boston University Global Development Policy Center (by video)

Moderator: Cynthia Sanborn, Universidad del Pacífico

Infrastructure is a primary feature of the Belt and Road Initiative, which promises connectivity in various forms. What can the region expect from the China in terms of infrastructure investment in the coming years? What sorts of infrastructure projects are Chinese companies prioritizing and what are the implications for regional development? Are BRI signatories likely to receive more infrastructure investment than those who have yet to sign BRI cooperation agreements? Are Latin American countries seeing a stronger preference for equity investment in infrastructure projects or are Chinese companies still securing mostly construction contracts? What would be the implications of a long-term Chinese presence in certain projects? And what trends are evident in the financing of Chinese infrastructure projects now that China’s policy banks have taken a relative back seat in the region?

12:45AM – 1:45PM: Lunch

1:45AM – 3:15PM: Session 3 – The Digital Silk Road: Implications for Latin America

Lead-off speakers:
Juan Luis Nuñez, TMG Telecom
Brian Fonseca, Florida International University
Tin Hinane El Kadi, London School of Economics

Moderator: Margaret Myers, Inter-American Dialogue

China is expected to play a critical role in the development of new generation telecommunications, artificial intelligence, and other advanced technologies in the Latin American region in the coming years, despite persistent warnings from the US about the security implications of Chinese technologies. What can the region expect from China in terms of technological engagement in the coming years? Where in the LAC region has China showcased its most cutting-edge technologies? To what extent does investment in lithium extraction in Latin America factor in China’s broader tech strategy? To what extent will China’s tech-related investment in Latin America support “industrial upgrading,” as described in Chinese policy toward the region? What are the effects so far of Chinese technological investment, whether in terms of economic development, on local safety/security, or in other areas? Should LAC citizens be concerned about the proliferation of Chinese monitoring technologies in the region? How will the so-called US-China tech war affect delivery of new telecommunications and other technologies to the LAC region?

3:15PM – 3:30PM: Coffee Break

3:30PM – 5:00PM: Session 4 – Latin America’s Policy Toward China

Lead-off speakers:
Carol Wise, University of Southern California
Manuel Malaret, CAF-Development Bank of Latin America
Francisco Urdinez, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Moderator: Cynthia Sanborn, Universidad del Pacífico

China has set forth a series of policies and other priorities for the Latin American region over the past decade, but Latin American policy toward China is comparatively lacking in most cases. What efforts are being made at the government and sub-governmental levels to formulate China-related policy or strategy? To what extent are Latin American nations equipped to negotiate with China on areas of concern in bilateral relations? To what extent is a regional/sectoral policy toward China possible in the coming years? What practical steps can the region take to strengthen its overall position in dealings with China, especially in the event of growing US-China tensions in the region?