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Interview: Belt and Road Initiative boosts LatAm’s capacity to tackle global health crisis, says expert
September 15,2020   By:Xinhua
SANTIAGO, Sept. 15, 2020 -- China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) offers Latin America and the Caribbean a great opportunity to advance cooperation in communication, innovation and health amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a Chilean expert of political science has said.
 
A total of 19 Latin American countries have signed memorandums of understanding with China to jointly promote the BRI, which aims to boost global growth through stepped-up cooperation in trade and other areas, Constanza Jorquera, an academic at the Diego Portales University School of Political Science, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
 
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jorquera said regional countries should strengthen BRI cooperation in the area of health, especially in the research and development of vaccines as well as access to medical equipment and pharmacological treatments.
 
She said the region's relations and cooperation with China would be reoriented by the global health crisis and how China and the region work together to tackle it, she said.
 
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, China and Latin American countries have enhanced mutual assistance and all-round cooperation in fighting the disease.
 
On July 23, foreign ministers of China and Latin American and Caribbean countries held a special video conference on COVID-19. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed that both sides should seek opportunities in the crisis to advance Belt and Road cooperation.
 
"China will continue to deepen cooperation in infrastructure, energy, agriculture and other traditional fields. It also looks forward to branching out into public health, digital economy and other new infrastructure," Wang said.
 
In this regard, China has sent medical experts and medical aid to Latin American countries to help local authorities prevent and control the epidemic. Beijing also pledged to make COVID-19 vaccine, when available, a global public good.
 
Regional countries and China enjoy broader prospects for cooperation in training and experience sharing in biomedical research in which China is making notable progress, said Jorquera.
 
"This pandemic teaches us to refocus development towards certain priorities," she said.
 
Chile, as a developing country and one of the Latin America's fastest-growing economies in recent decades, faces "many challenges" in key areas that it could strengthen its capacity through BRI cooperation, such as innovation, technology and connectivity, she said.
 
China is Chile's biggest trade partner with the bilateral trade volume reaching 40.9 billion U.S. dollars in 2019.
 
The country expects to develop digital connectivity at the infrastructure level "to make trade, the circulation of people and goods, and supply routes more efficient," she added.
 
Such efforts would not only serve to strengthen Chile and Latin America's ties with China, but also help local people "to have a better life," she said.