Wide space for China-Costa Rica cooperation

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-3-31 22:43:01

Marco Vinicio Ruiz

Editor's Note:

Costa Rica has taken over the Pro Tempore Presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). What efforts will Costa Rica take to help China engage closer in the Americas? How are the bilateral relations developing since Costa Rica and China established diplomatic ties in 2007? Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Xiaonan sat for an interview with Marco Vinicio Ruiz (Ruiz), Ambassador of Costa Rica to China.

GT: Since China and Costa Rica established diplomatic ties in 2007, they have been enjoying smooth development in their relations. What achievements have they scored? What are the challenges in their cooperation?

Ruiz: Remarkable achievements have been scored as we are ushering into our seventh year since we established diplomatic ties in June 2007.

While we have been active in high-level officials exchanges, people-to-people exchanges have also become very prevalent. We have set up a Confucius Institute in one of our most prestigious universities, the University of Costa Rica, with the aim to promote Chinese values, culture and language. We also have a program which sends up to 80 Costa Rican students every year to different parts of China to learn Putonghua.

Trade and investment constitute the most active part in our bilateral relations since the China-Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement went into force in August 2011. China is the second-largest trading partner of Costa Rica.

Now we are striving to invite more Chinese enterprise to invest in Costa Rica as they can use our country as a platform to tap into not only the US and Europe, but also Canada, Central America, Mexico, Peru, and the Caribbean, among others.

We have also signed agreements in tourism that boasts of immense potential. We allow Chinese tourists with a US, Canadian, Schengen or Japanese visa to get into Costa Rica, saving the time and trouble for potential travelers. The pact sealed between our two civil aviations also helps boost the tourist industry.

As for the challenges in our bilateral cooperation, it always takes time to get to know each other, in every new relationship, at the beginning it is difficult to encounter the channels, especially in such a big country as China, with central government, ministries, provincial authorities, specific bodies and SOEs.

GT: Costa Rica has taken over the Pro Tempore Presidency of CELAC. How will it promote the foundation of the Sino-Latin American cooperation forum proposed when then Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visited Chile in 2012?

Ruiz: CELAC is aimed to be the most specialized mechanism for dialogues and political consultations among the 33 states in the region. Another important topic in the agenda is to establish channels with key regional actors.

Costa Rica is committed to offering a communication channel within the community and working together to create a successful China-Latin American forum in 2014. In January 2013 in La Habana Summit, it was decided that the forum will take place this year, during Costa Rica's presidency.

We are also taking responsibility for other areas including climate change, South-South cooperation, nuclear disarmament, food security and family farming.

GT: China's increasing interactions with South America is under close scrutiny from the US, which thinks China's engagement with South American countries is mostly energy-centered. What's your perspective on China's South American policy?

Ruiz: We have always enjoyed rather smooth ties with the US. They understand that in this globalized world of integration, every country has the need to diversify forms of trade and commerce. China is significant not only for Latin America, but also to the whole world, the US included.

As China is the second largest consumer market in the world, we have numerous opportunities to do business here. We yearn to participate in this growing market. The history of the world is always in constant change. In contemporary history, Europe dominated the world and during the past 70 years it has been the US, but now China is an emerging power.

Dialogues between Beijing and Washington on many issues are quite open, and frank.

And they understand that they both should focus on the path of peaceful and sustainable development for their bilateral ties as well as the world as a whole.

GT: As both developing countries, what are the common pursuits or objectives of China and Costa Rica, especially when the world economy is creeping on the way of recovery?

Ruiz: As developing countries, we have common concerns about income distribution and urban-rural gap. We have a lot to share with China as to create a better international agenda to promote trade and investment.

And I believe that Costa Rica will set a good example for China in sustainable development, as we take note that one of the key objectives of Beijing is to create a beautiful China in fulfilling the Chinese dream.

Cultural exchanges are also crucial. For example, a growing number of Chinese are learning Spanish, but most of them ignore that Costa Rica is a wonderful place to study the language.

GT: Your country focuses on the renewable energy industry, and China is bearing the grunt of heavy pollution. How can the two countries collaborate in this area?

Ruiz: It is a huge opportunity and we are now seeking a myriad of ways. We have talked to China's authorities, including the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Costa Rica is one of the countries that unilaterally have set up ambitious goals in fighting climate change. We aim to be carbon neutral by 2021 through a rigorous program.

Costa Rica is recognized as one of the world leaders in sustainability and conservation. We have seen a lot of opportunities to share our knowledge and experience with China.

For example, there are a lot of isolated communities in Costa Rica located far away from main electricity lines, and we have provided solutions, such as the use of solar energy for electricity and heaters for water.

This can be applied to communities in China as well, and we can engage in other technological exchanges.

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