Monday, February 14, 2011

Colombian prez claims “dry” canal to rival Panama’s

The big news out of Colombia is the freeing of four hostages by the FARC rebels since Wednesday. Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos (image) was highly critical of the guerillas especially in light of the delayed liberation of two kidnap victims yesterday. Yet another set of comments by Santos hinted at what could be a major economic feat for Colombia.

According to remarks made to the Financial Times, Santos said that the Colombia is in talks with the Chinese government in order to build a “dry” canal between the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines. "I don't want to create exaggerated expectations, but it makes a lot of sense ... Asia could be the new motor of the global economy," said Santos on the 491-mile rail line that would run near Colombia’s northern border with Panama.

The $7.6 billion project would be funded and run by Chinese firms and could easily rival the expanding Panama Canal.

The plans mentioned by Santos would represent the latest expansion of Chinese economic expansion into Latin America. If completed, the “dry” canal could have serious repercussions with Colombia’s main trade partner:
Latin American exports to China leapt nine times between 2000 and 2009 in real terms, to $41.3bn. That was a far higher rate of increase than for exports overall, although from a low base; by 2009 China accounted for just under 7% of all exports from the region.

China is Colombia's second largest trade partner after the US, with bilateral trade rising from $10m in 1980 to more than $5bn in 2010.

But the FT suggested Bogotá also hoped the rail proposals would encourage Washington to push for ratification of a free-trade agreement signed by both governments four years ago, but yet to be approved by Congress.
Image- BBC Mundo
Online Sources- BBC Mundo, Reuters, The Telegraph, The Guardian, El Tiempo

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