| SAO PAULO, June 30
SAO PAULO, June 30 Latin American countries
lack an overall strategy and expertise on China that could help
governments and businesses cope with the Asian country's
growing presence in the region, scholars said on Tuesday.
China and Latin American specialists speaking at a
conference in Sao Paulo said China sees Latin America as vital
to its own future energy, food and economic security, but that
the region had been slow to develop China policies.
"Latin America is acting toward China's expansion in the
world in a reactive, disorganized or ad hoc fashion," said
David Shambaugh, professor of political science at The George
"When I asked Itamaraty (Brazil's foreign ministry) about
its strategy on China, I got blank stares. There is no
China this year displaced the United States as Brazil's
leading trading partner, as it is doing in several other
countries in the region, which supplies much of China's demand
for soybeans, iron ore, copper and oil.
Shambaugh noted that the Chinese ambassador to Brazil gave
a speech in Portuguese on Tuesday, while nobody at Brazil's
foreign ministry was fluent in Mandarin and no Latin American
diplomat in China was able to give a speech in Chinese.
There are only two comprehensive China studies programs at
universities in Latin America, one in Mexico City and the
Salvador University in Buenos Aires.
"China on the other hand does have a strategy, on the
diplomatic, commercial, cultural and military levels toward
Brazil and Latin America," he said at the Brazil-China Business
Chamber's Third International Conference.
"There are individual provinces and cities in China that
have a Brazil strategy."
Among its growing investments in the region, China last
month signed a $10 billion deal under which Brazil's
state-owned oil firm Petrobras will supply 200,000 barrels of
oil a day to Chinese state-oil firm Sinopec over 10 years.
Chinese demand for commodities had been a major factor in
the region's strong growth in recent years until the global
economic crisis struck late last year.
"Argentina's growth of 8 to 9 percent a year over the past
five or so years can not be explained without China," said
Gonzalo Paz, professor of foreign relations at the Elliott
School of International Affairs.
Paz said that granting China market economy status by
countries like Brazil and Argentina has flooded some sectors
with low end Chinese goods and caused problems in the
electronics and textile sectors.
"It's almost as if these didn't do their homework," said
Shambaugh. "The United States, Europe, Japan and Australia did
not grant China market economy status."
Bilateral trade between Argentina and China has grown from
$1.85 billion in 2001 to $12.4 billion in 2008, Paz said.
Chile's trade with China has grown from $2.1 billion to $15.3
billion over the period.
China's share of world oil imports has grown from 3.5
percent in 2000 to 9.5 percent now. It now accounts for 63
percent of world soybean imports, nearly tripling its stake
since 2000. It is also the world's largest iron ore, copper and
nickel importer, according to World Bank data.
Daniel Lederman, a senior economist at the World Bank, said
said a lack of long-term planning and investment in education
had prevented Latin America from fully meeting the insatiable
demand from China and India for natural resources.
"Latin America needs to reinvest in education and training
that target natural resource and scientific intensive
products," he said, adding that this was where growth would
likely come in the region.
(Reporting by Reese Ewing; editing by Stuart Grudgings and