MONTEVIDEO – Uruguay and China signed on Sunday a memorandum of understanding seeking to improve air connections between the two countries in both the commercial and tourist sectors, official sources said.
The Uruguayan Foreign Ministry reported in a communique that Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa held a meeting in Montevideo with China’s top Civil Aviation Administration official, Feng Zhenglin, within the framework of Uruguay’s participation in the second Belt and Road Forum in the Asian giant.
Both men emphasized the importance of greater cooperation in creating closer air links given that such connections are vital for the “more fluid” transport of goods and passengers.
In addition, the two sides emphasized that greater dynamism in aerial connectivity would be “very positive” for the development of areas in which Uruguay has a significant interest – such as tourism – and where the two governments feel that there is “great potential for growth.”
“This agreement seeks to create the appropriate framework for Chinese airlines – in the future – to be able to operate at Uruguayan airports both ... to distribute Chinese passengers in the (South American) region, as well as to transport cargo, taking into account that Uruguay is already able to export frozen meat and fresh fruits to China,” the communique said.
The South American country is taking part in the ambitious Chinese Belt and Road initiative, the multibillion global plan promoted by Beijing since 2013 to create infrastructure and provide investment.
Uruguay – which has China as an important trade partner, just as does Chile – was the first Latin American country to officially join the New Silk Road initiative in early 2018, just a year after China became the main destination for Uruguayan exports with sales totaling $2.55 billion in 2017.
The Belt and Road Initiative is a development strategy being implemented by the Chinese government involving infrastructure development and investments in 152 countries and international organizations in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. The “belt” element refers to the overland routes for road and rail transportation, called the “Silk Road Economic Belt,” while “road” refers to the sea routes, or the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road.”
Beijing has said that the initiative is “a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future” but some observers see it as a push for dominance in global affairs with a trading network managed from and by China.