BEIJING China (Xinhua) --
Latin America has been going through an
adjustment period in 2017, with economic recovery underway,
political tensions eased, and regional countries changing
foreign policies based on their respective needs and the
Negative growth had
been a cloud hanging over the continent for two consecutive
years, but was finally dispelled by the recovery in 2017, a
major result of price hikes concerning coal, oil, natural gas
and metals on the global market.
The upbeat is
further supported by the United Nations Economic Commission for
Latin America and the Caribbean, which forecasts that economic
growth in the region will be 1.2 percent this year and 2.2
percent in 2018.
However, the gradual
recovery is unlikely to turn into a strong rebound due to
multiple internal and external uncertainties, such as languished
commodity prices, the faltering renegotiation of the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and slow progress in the
structural reforms of regional countries.
The political arena
has witnessed no bombshell. Brazilian President Michel Temer,
who took office after his predecessor Dilma Rousseff was
impeached for fiscal wrongdoings and was removed from office
last year, avoided an impeachment as Brazil’s lower house voted
to drop corruption charges against him in October, securing
Temer’s term due in 2018.
December marks a new
step towards political stability for the ruling United Socialist
Party of Venezuela, which garnered a sweeping victory in
regional elections, winning 308 municipalities out of 335, after
the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable agreed to talks with
the government to address a bitter power struggle that has
existed for years.
despite widespread opposition, the government has secured an
upper hand in pushing forward a series of market-oriented
economic reforms. A recent case of President Mauricio Macri’s
victory was the Congress’ approval of a pension system reform
Yan Jin, a research
fellow on Latin American issues with China Institutes of
Contemporary International Relations, said the right wing has
been regaining strength after last year’s power struggle with
the left, and is promoting structural reform and consolidating
Meanwhile, the left
wing is taking this opportunity to build up its political and
social influence, Yan said.
For years, the
United States has adopted a “carrot and stick” approach towards
its relations with Latin America, but several changes occurred
since U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January.
Although the U.S.
Congress hasn’t ratified the building of a wall along the
U.S.-Mexico border, Trump has so far not changed his stance on
the issue, keeping to the promise he made in his presidential
provoked over the U.S. demand for renegotiating the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), as the fifth round of
talks in Mexico bore few fruits. Mexico faces mounting pressure
from the U.S. government, who said the treaty has harmed the
American economy and threatened to scrap the agreement.
The United States
has also witnessed setbacks in its relations with Cuba, as the
current administration retreated from progress made by the Obama
administration in normalizing bilateral ties.
United States announced several rounds of sanctions against
Venezuela over President Nicolas Maduro’s efforts to establish a
National Constituent Assembly, and led the European Union and
some Latin American countries to pressure the Maduro
Xu Shicheng, a
research fellow with the Institute of Latin American Studies at
the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (ILAS CASS), a top
national academic organization, pointed out a weakening unity of
Latin American countries under such circumstances, adding that
less progress has been achieved as the regional integration
process faces multiple obstacles.
Latin America has
been adding new dimensions to its foreign relations, expanding
mutual development with Europe and Asia, and gaining momentum in
fostering closer ties with China.
In 2017, the region
was designated as the natural extension of the 21st
Century Maritime Silk Road, a new maritime route as part of the
Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China in 2013.
Argentina, Brazil, Peru and others have also shown their
intention of joining the initiative and forming a strategic
cooperation with China.
“China is undergoing
a shift in economic structure, while Latin America is
experiencing changes and economic recovery. The new year will
witness closer development between the two parties,” said Guo
Cunhai, assistant researcher at ILAS CASS.
“How will both sides
exchange governing experience to achieve a win-win situation is
a topic that is worth our focus,” Guo said.