Global Roundtable – GFDD and  Margaret Myers
Global Roundtable – GFDD and Margaret Myers

welcome to the global roundtable organized by the global foundation for democracy and development today we have the pleasure of the company of mrs. Margaret Meyers director for China and Latin America program at the inter-american dialogue a very reputed think tank in Washington DC welcome Margaret great to have you here and let me introduce you to our audiences just briefly so before arriving at the dialogue mrs. meyer’s worked as a latin america analyst and china analyst for the US Department of Defense also as a senior China analyst for science applications international corporation and for folk here county schools where she developed the county’s first Mandarin language program upon her appointment to inter-american dialogue she established the dialogues china latin america program and its working group in order to examine China’s growing presence in Latin America and the Caribbean and she has also developed the China Latin America finance database the only publicly available source of empirical data on Chinese landing to Latin America so Margaret let me ask you just to start the conversation where does your interest for China come from I think I’ve been interested in sort of Asia very broadly since I was a little girl but I started really becoming interested in China when I was in college and was given the opportunity to study Chinese for the first time ever it wasn’t really an opportunity about everybody was studying Japanese at the time was a long time ago and not so long time in any case yeah it was a fascinating language very different from any of the romance languages that I had studied previously and and so after studying Chinese I went to China on numerous occasions for about I guess three and a half to four years total and learned a tremendous amount about China and ever since then have been doing work on China and some capacity whether as an analyst for the Department of Defense or a teacher of China or you know traveling just around China so let’s let’s see some Chinese from you tell us in your best Chinese how would you say welcome to the global round table oh gosh I don’t know how you were travelers um how about we say uh ye men lie tangia woman chugga-chugga to be a junior Hawaii I have to believe you so let me ask you I was looking through inter-american dialogues annual report for 2014 and there is a chapter that says China in Latin America friend or foe mm-hmm so tell us more about it friend or foe well what we’re trying to get out there i think is this notion that there is a lot of both concern about china in latin america broadly and also excitement about china and the sort of economic prospects associated with chinese engagement in the region and you see this you know reflected in various ways in in very specific ways in every country in Latin America and the Caribbean including in the Dominican Republic China on the one hand Chinese demand for for commodities in particular has been transformative for many countries in the region especially in South America commodities like minerals oil agricultural products think so are these domain exports from here these are the main yeah absolutely these are the main exports I don’t remember the figures exactly but something around eighty five percent of exports our primary commodities X Latin American and Caribbean exports to the main one being the top export i believe is our minerals and then followed by oil and then agricultural products at this point although i could be from I know breakdown by country but as a region those those in general tend to be the top exports across the base is going to change a little bit now with the slowdown of China economy so that’s where the folk um Xin and it is not really a question of China being in an enemy by any means but rather that you know a decrease in demand for certain commodities and the effect that that’s had on commodities prices has it now means that many of these countries in Latin America are facing a rather critical economic situation and some very critical questions moving forward in terms of how they’re going to to manage their their economies and continue certain rates of growth and so that’s a major challenge and nobody really knows what’s going to happen with the Chinese economy in the next few years although most predict a continued slowing what we do expect is that china is going to transition somewhat its its economic model to transform from a country that’s focused very specifically on on sort of domestic investment to one that is more sort of consumption focused in consumption as a share of GDP which means that the things that China demands from other countries from countries in Latin America in terms of imports are going to change in what sense do see them so less focus on construction related commodities in particular things like copper for example iron ore and more focus perhaps on consumer goods there and that presents some really exciting opportunities for Latin American countries but also there’s a lot of work that we don’t know it could turn out to be positive for letting them it could be along with the right policies exactly and what about the Chinese investment in the area so Chinese investment Chinese foreign direct investment has been fairly low by comparison is lower than what Japan has to offer for example lower than what the u.s. gives the region broadly speaking and it’s focused and has been focused for a long time on again on very specific sectors on mining infrastructure oil and gas and also in in the agricultural industries and in various countries but that’s changing a little bit more recently I’d say over the past couple years in particular we’re seeing a real sort of diversification in terms of foreign direct investment or at least you know efforts to sole living more into the manufacturing facturing which there’s been a presence for many years but increasing that presence also more investment in science and technology in a wider variety of infrastructure projects not just transport infrastructure or you know hydro plants which is a hydroelectric plants which is another major area of focus but more broad a lot of sort of greenfield investment in things like you know car production in various countries photon which is a Chinese car company just did a big deal in Colombia which is very very important for that country which has fairly loose or minimal relationship with China in comparison to its peers so you’re just seeing more overall more interesting so you would say a part of the production from China is moving to Latin America early coming coming back exactly and there are there’s credit associated with that two lines of credit China just announced a 10 billion dollar line of credit to help Latin America develop its production capacity and manufacturing and potentially in general loans coming from China have surpassed World Bank and many inter-american Development Bank’s like in America is getting more loans from China than from these huge financial institutions exactly and it’s still growing how it still is that affecting Latin America it’s in the relations right it’s really a rather remarkable i mean i think the effects are varied and a lot remains to be seen because this is still a feather fairly recent phenomenon we’ve tracked alone since 2005 and that’s really when it kind of started going so we only have a history of about 10 years of loans but in that amount of time we’ve seen almost 120 billion committed to the region mostly in terms of bilateral you know state-to-state lending or state to SOE to state-owned enterprises in Latin America so but yeah I mean this has had been extremely important for for certain countries countries like Venezuela right yeah we have some and for your annual report which presents the country so Venezuela Brazil Argentina exactly Ecuador those are the those are the four top exactly the top recipients and their in Venezuela and Ecuador in particular you’re talking about countries that haven’t over the past few years at least had a lot of access to international credit market so China for them has been an extremely important linder and many of the loans that it gives these two two countries are backed in oil which is a sort of you a very specific model for Chinese lending you see the same thing happening in in Brazil degree so there is still certain tension between Taiwan and China is this reflected in the region in what way is their attention how would you comment yeah there I mean certainly there’s always some tension or there has you know you see cross-strait tension in various forms and have for years but yeah in Latin America for many many years we saw pretty heightened i would say diplomatic engagement on the part of china and taiwan and diplomatic competition until really mine Joe who’s the current president came into office and when that happened there was what many call a diplomatic troops and in formal diplomatic truce and you still see engagement by both of these countries but not the sort of battleground that you saw a diplomatic battleground for four years and years yeah what remains to be seen up whether are the Taiwan elections are coming up very soon and it’s highly likely that not my NGOs party but the opposition party which is more pro-independence will win and the woman’s name the candidates name is tying win and if she does win there is the possibility that this could you know exacerbate the cross-strait tensions and but maybe not if it does though then there’s the possibility we’ll see kind of continued sort of diplomatic efforts in Central America specifically and also in the Caribbean and recently there was stock market crisis in China yeah that was very much talked about and it affected very negatively not only China but the world is this going to affect some of the Chinese investment for example like the Nicaragua canal and other projects big infrastructure projects projects that China has in Latin America and the Caribbean i would say some country except in that country some companies were hit very hard in that crash including sheen way which is the company that’s owned by wang jing who’s running the whole canal nicaragua canal project so that’s a very legitimate question i think in general it’s not going to have a major that crash in particular won’t have a major impact on you know overall foreign direct investment in in Latin America but what is concerning is what it sort of signals about weaknesses in the Chinese economy and and instability and we didn’t note before with China precisely and the ability of the Chinese government to really manage what is going to be an extremely complex reform effort so the that’s really I think the primary concern over all the China is very committed to more foreign direct investment in Latin America and also more finance so to conclude our conversations can we have a little bit of a preview of your next book that is coming out so I wish under revision and it’s coming out next year on political economy okay America oh yes what are we looking forward to reading hopefully this hopefully we’ll have it out very soon if all goes well there’s it’s a political economy of China and Latin America I’ve written a manuscript with Carol wise and it’s actually we’re co-editing a manuscript of collected essays on the topic and this what we’ve included are sort of a variety of chapters on sort of the overall political economic environment in Latin America how that’s evolved over the past almost two decades now have heightened Chinese engagement in latinum and there were many many very interesting changes and then we go into specific case studies looking at you know various economic sectors agriculture we look at very specifically we also look at mining and oil and then at other cases we look at sort of political scenarios we look at the u.s. relationship and how thinking about the China you and I are look a little bit forward it’s what exactly working for precise trends sort of how things have evolved and then yeah toward the end in the conclusion we look we look at a head and what might what might come in which is very impossible to do it nobody knows it’s going to happen Regina I let alone with some economies in Latin America video you’re basically doing your best we’re doing our best so informed guess exactly well thank you so much Margaret is in a pleasure and we wish you a lot of success in your work we are looking forward to the book thank you very much as a pleasure thank you for watching the global round table organized by the global foundation for democracy and development today we have talked to Margaret Meyers director of China Latin American program at the inter-american dialogue you

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