This Sunday, January 22, is celebrated the Chinese New Year, the most important traditional holiday for the 1,400 million inhabitants of the Asian giant. The year of the tiger ends and gives way to the year of the water rabbitwhich will govern for the next 12 months, according to the Chinese horoscope, and represents wisdom, peace, prosperity, intelligence, tranquility and a good omen.
(Also read: Keys to why China’s population stopped growing for the first time in 6 decades).
The event will be held for the first time free of charge and open to the public at the Park of the 93, in the north of Bogotá, from 9 in the morning and until 5 in the afternoon, on Sunday. They will be lanhuChinese ambassador to Colombia, and sergio cabreraDesignated Ambassador of Colombia in China.
«Our work with all sectors has allowed relations between Colombia and China to be going through their best historical moment,» Mr. Lan Hu said in a message on Friday. “We will continue to strengthen cooperation opportunities for the benefit of both peoples,” he added.
Regarding the festivity, EL TIEMPO spoke with Ingrid Chaves, executive director of the Colombo China Chamber of Investment and Commerceabout the news of the celebration and how are the commercial relations between both countries.
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Why will the Chinese New Year be different?
It had always been under an intimate context for businessmen. But this year, at the idea of Ambassador Lan Hu, a more massive event is wanted, due to the importance that Colombia is having for China. It will take place in Parque de la 93 so that any Bogota citizen can appropriate and get closer to Chinese culture. There will be typical decoration, porticoes, reflected historical sites, gastronomy with authentic Chinese restaurantscompanies that sell products from that country and activities for the whole family.
What activities will there be?
We will have the lion and dragon dance, martial dances, live Chinese instrumental music, traditional games, Chinese calligraphy so that everyone can write their name in Mandarin, cultural displays and typical cuisine.
How are relations between China and Colombia?
Bilateral relations are at their best. Last year we had the China-Colombia Dialogue to bring together companies from the public and private sectors and we were with important Chinese companies talking about various issues that interest the government of President Gustavo Petro, such as the energy transition and tourism. 43 years of diplomatic relations have been completed and, as is known, China is Colombia’s second largest trading partner. Although exports fell in 2022 because China’s borders were closed, it is expected that by 2023 they will have a rebound like the one they had been having for more than two decades.
And how much investment?
In terms of investment, China is the most important Asian investor for Colombia. There are relevant projects such as the Bogotá Metro, a line of the Medellín Metro, energy and hydroelectric, technology and solar panel projects that are booming, as well as the presence of technology companies such as Huawei, Vivo, Xiaomi, that have been contributing to the bilateral relationship. In total, there are 118 Chinese companies in Colombia.
What other projects are there?
China has been increasing its investment. Colombia was one of the last countries in the region to receive Chinese investment. The figure is around 250 million dollars in projects. There is a lot of interest from the Chinese in responsible mining. And one case is that of Zijin, who has been doing an interesting topic of social responsibility, supporting coffee growers and peasants in Antioquia. We have also had information about the interest of Chinese businessmen in Hidroituango, the second tunnel of the Line and the navigability of the Magdalena River, for example. These are projects that Colombia has had somewhat quiet, but that the Chinese have shown interest. Before the pandemic, China represented 25 percent of imports in Colombia, something that has not changed. What changed were exports, which in 2022 only grew by 8 percent.
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That generates a trade balance deficit…
Yes, we have a trade balance that is more in deficit than the previous year. In 2021, the trade balance was in a deficit of 8.4 billion dollars and this year it increased to just over 12 billion dollars, approximately. It is something that we must promote.
What are the barriers that Colombian exporters have with respect to China?
First, ignorance. Second, there are other countries that have treaties with Colombia that facilitate tariff issues. Even geographical proximity is key. So, there are many who say that China is far away, that you pay differently. And that is where awareness is essential. Many think that a lot of paperwork is needed. In the Chamber we have affiliated companies that can help Colombian exporters to go to the factories, meet the suppliers and build trust so that operations are successful.
Would it be improved with trade agreements?
At the moment, neither China nor Colombia have expressed an interest in signing an FTA, but there is a very important initiative that is the Belt and Road Initiative, and that it has tried to promote. Almost all the countries of Latin America are in it. Colombia is one of the few countries that are missing. It is a matter of friendship, beyond tariff treaties. It is time for Colombia to join the Initiative.
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How would it benefit Colombia and what should it do to enter?
This initiative would work from a memorandum of understanding, which has not been signed. At the time, Ambassador Monsalve said that he was ready. We are waiting for the new government to rule. This would bring a series of benefits in different fields: cultural, economic, commercial and diplomatic. For China, it is a matter of friendship. In the objectives of the initiative, there are several issues of cooperation and mutual aid. With the signing, for example, the agricultural sector would benefit, especially in technification.
What are the strong points that have maintained the relationship in Colombia and China?
As for imports from China, everything is focused on technology: computers, cell phones, cell phone parts and so on. It is what keeps the relationship alive and growing. According to Dane, at the end of 2022, imports reached 15,000 million dollars, higher than the 11,000 million dollars in the quarter of 2021. However, exports decreased by 2,000 million dollars between 2021 and 2022.
And what are the relevant exports?
For Colombia, hydrocarbons have been the most relevant and those that maintain this area. But what is being promoted are non-traditional exports. The great demand in China is now related to beef and pork. This sector is waiting for the remaining phytosanitary procedures to be signed. There is also potential with avocado, Colombian flowers and coffee. We have spoken with the National Federation of Coffee Growers and we have expressed that they would be interested in exporting beyond green coffee. Trips and missions to China are coming so that Colombian businessmen can go to interact with Chinese.
(Keep reading: Which countries have restrictions on travelers from China?#).
And there are cases of electronic commerce…
Electronic commerce through platforms, such as Taobao, is something that has to be developed so that the Colombian exporter sees another way to export their products in a non-traditional way. Leonisa and Sempertex already have a leading space.
DAVID ALEJANDRO LOPEZ BERMUDEZ
Multimedia Reporting Journalist
In networks: @lopez03david