Participants meet via video link to conduct in-depth discussions at the 2022 China's Two Sessions: Cooperation and Future webinar on March 11
April 2020 saw the launch of an airlift program carrying medical supplies from China to Mexico, just 39 days after Mexico reported its first confirmed COVID-19 case. Referred to as the air bridge between both countries, the flights became the main delivery channel for overseas personal protective equipment and other necessities. The cargo list expanded in February 2021, after this Latin American republic became the first in the region to approve the emergency use of two Chinese vaccines produced by Beijing-based Sinovac Life Sciences Co. Ltd. and CanSino Biologics Inc., respectively.
"I want to express my gratitude for the air bridge, which allowed Mexico to receive a large number of vaccine doses," Mexican Congressman Alberto Villa said at a webinar on March 11, adding that for five decades running, the two countries have maintained a diplomatic exchange strengthening mutual trust and cooperation, and benefiting the people of both nations.
The event was hosted by the China International Communications Group (CICG) Center for the Americas—which comprises Beijing Review, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of China-Mexico diplomatic relations. Themed 2022 China's Two Sessions: Cooperation and Future, it gathered speakers from both sides. The Two Sessions is a colloquial term for the annual full sessions of the National People's Congress, China's highest state organ of power, and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the top political advisory body.
China and Mexico, both major developing countries, important emerging markets, and members of the Asia-Pacific family, are at similar stages of growth and share the same goals, Qiu Xiaoqi, former Chinese Ambassador to Mexico and current Special Representative of the Chinese Government on Latin American Affairs, told the webinar. "It's vital for them to fortify the exchange of governance concepts and practical experiences, and learn from each other," he said.
Since China's entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001, bilateral economic relations have witnessed rapid development, former Mexican Ambassador to China Sergio Ley López said. China is Mexico's second largest trading partner, the third largest destination for its exports and the second main supplier of the Mexican market. "We need to move toward a new stage in the commercial relationship," he continued, pointing out this is key to improving the competitiveness of Mexico's manufacturing exports.
López also mentioned the notable growth of China's imports, a trend that will intensify in the future in response to a rapidly mounting domestic consumption market that will eventually become No.1 in the world. "The most urgent thing to resolve, is the need to multiply Mexico's exportable supply to China; this is still very small," he said. Manufacturers of medium- and high-end products and those in the agri-food sector show the greatest growth potential, according to him.
Mexico's export capacity does, however, continue to swell and in this context, it is necessary to improve China's market access conditions. The option of signing a free trade agreement has always featured high on the Chinese agenda, though given asymmetries between both economies and the weight of the Mexican-American relationship, Mexico's authorities and business sector have not yet embarked on final negotiations.
"China has requested its formal entry into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). We need to come up with a definitive position on the CPTPP in the short or medium term," López said.
In 2021, China filed an application to join the CPTPP, a free trade agreement hailed for its high standards among Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Viet Nam.
Despite the potential, structural challenges, too, are at play in bilateral relations, mainly in the economic and trade aspects. For example, the bilateral trade complementarity needs to be improved with joint efforts, according to Chen Yuanting, Secretary General of the Center for Mexican Studies.
"During the Two Sessions [in March], we learned about China's policies toward opening up and economic reform, such as facilitation for access to the Chinese market which will bring greater opportunities for collaboration with Mexico," Jesús Seade, Mexican Ambassador to China, said.
Premier Li Keqiang said in this year's government work report that China will continue to pursue a high-standard opening up and promote the stable growth of foreign trade and investment. More specifically, the country will deepen multilateral and bilateral economic and trade cooperation. "We will work to negotiate and conclude high-standard free trade agreements with more countries and regions," he added.
China has set its 2022 economic growth target at some 5.5 percent. "The steady growth of the Chinese economy will not only add momentum to the global economic recovery, but also bring better opportunities for the economic and trade development of both China and Mexico," Gao Anming, Vice President and Editor in Chief of CICG, said.
Currently, some Chinese companies are seeking to relocate to better operate under the new global market conditions. "For this, Mexico is the ideal hub for preferential access, which puts us in a position to compete and penetrate other Latin American markets. Similarly, Mexico must bet on trade diversification, and trade with China also represents the gateway to the wider Asian market," Amapola Grijalva, President of the Mexico-China Chamber of Commerce and Technology, said.
Bilateral collaboration must venture beyond politics and trade, Seade told the webinar. "We must build up understanding not just between politicians, but also between our business people, students, artists, scientists and other citizens; the more mutual understanding we achieve, the more trust will arise, and the more business will follow," he said.
Chinese Ambassador to Mexico Zhu Qingqiao echoed Seade by calling for the expansion of people-to-people and cultural connections, especially the interaction among the younger generations.
He encouraged the further development of internship and short-term scholarship programs, as well as exchange programs between music, literature, poetry and theater communities. "We can also jointly host festivals as platforms for collaboration," he said.
According to Gao, educational connections between the two countries have become progressively closer. At present, Mexico has established five Confucius Institutes and one Confucius Classroom, as well as the only Chinese cultural center in the Americas.
"On February 14, the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Mexico, 15 representative pairs of sister provinces, states and cities of the two countries solemnly hosted flag-colored lighting ceremonies or light shows at their respective landmark buildings, demonstrating their nations' friendship," Gao said.
"As comprehensive strategic partners, we should continue to firmly support each other in taking a development path that suits our own national conditions and boost exchanges of state governance and administration experiences, especially those in poverty alleviation, anti-corruption and coordinated regional development," Zhu added.
"When Mexico held the rotating presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, within the framework of the Latin American and Caribbean Forum, China and Mexico carried out extensive exchanges of experience in the fields of agriculture, poverty reduction and development," Yu Yunquan, President of the Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies—a CICG research affiliate, said at the event.
The two countries can implement joint poverty alleviation projects as part of their cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, Yu concluded. BR
(Tao Zihui contributed to the article)
(Print Edition Title: Meeting of Minds)
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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