China and Latin American and Caribbean Countries Hold Special Video Conference of Foreign Ministers on COVID-19

On 23 July, foreign ministers of China and Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries held a special video conference on COVID-19. Co-chaired by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, the conference was attended by foreign ministers of Argentina, Barbados, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay.

Wang highlighted the mutual assistance and all-round cooperation between China and LAC countries in fighting COVID-19, which constitutes an important part of the global response. Such cooperation vividly demonstrates that true friendship defies geographical distance, even in the most difficult times.

Describing COVID-19 as a once-in-a-century, unexpected and unprecedented disease with far-reaching ramifications, Wang pointed out that the immediate priority and challenge facing China and LAC countries is to contain the virus, stabilize the economy and protect people's livelihood. As comprehensive cooperative partners of equality, mutual benefit and common development, China stands ready to enhance consensus, solidarity and cooperation with LAC countries, meet the multiple challenges caused by COVID-19 together, and contribute China and LAC's strength to global public health security and world economic recovery.

Wang put forth five proposals on cooperation going forward:

First, following a people-centered approach to deepen cooperation against COVID-19. Stressing the need to enhance policy communication and coordination, Wang expressed China's readiness to send more medical expert teams to LAC countries and intensify cooperation on vaccine research and development. The Special Loan Program for China-Latin America Infrastructure Project will be used to support public health projects in regional countries. China will actively engage Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to earmark funding from China-FAO South-South Cooperation Trust Fund to help LAC meet food security challenges. The two sides need to support WHO's due role in global COVID-19 response and firmly reject any politicization or stigmatization.

Second, offering mutual support to protect growth and livelihoods. While containing the virus, more efforts are needed to reopen the economy, stabilize jobs and protect livelihoods. China will continue to encourage trade and investment cooperation both online and offline. It welcomes LAC specialty products that meet quality inspection and quarantine standards into Chinese market. China will actively consider commercial flights between the two sides and establishing travel bubbles with countries with ready conditions.

Third, seeking opportunities in the current crisis to advance Belt and Road cooperation. China will continue to deepen cooperation in infrastructure, energy, agriculture and other traditional fields. It also looks forward to branching out into public health, digital economy and other new infrastructure, and building a China-LAC health silk road and a China-LAC digital silk road. The two sides need to enhance policy complementarity to transform and upgrade practical cooperation.

Fourth, focusing on the real need to catalyze overall cooperation. China supports Mexico in playing an active and important role as Pro Tempore President of CELAC. Under the China-CELAC Forum, we will hold the China-LAC Agricultural Ministers' Forum, China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum and China-LAC Scientific and Technological Innovation Forum when appropriate, and hope that the third ministerial meeting of China-CELAC Forum be held as soon as conditions allow, to advance cooperation in public health, food security, poverty, disaster reduction, digital economy and clean energy. China also stands ready to have more dialogue and exchanges with regional groupings such as MERCOSUR and the Pacific Alliance.

Fifth, upholding fairness and justice in working together for global governance. As members of the developing world, China and LAC countries share common interests in advocating a multi-polar world and multilateralism. The two sides need to enhance communication and coordination in multilateral fora and on global governance, support the UN-centered multilateral system and the international order underpinned by international law, reject unilateralism, protectionism and bullying practices, and work together to build an open world economy and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries.

Wang pledged that despite the COVID-19 crisis and other profound changes unseen in a century, China will not change the strategic and long-term importance it places on relations with LAC. China's determination to strengthen solidarity and deepen cooperation for shared prosperity will not change. The vision toward stronger South-South cooperation and improved global governance will not change. China-LAC relations will come through even stronger after COVID-19 and have a brighter tomorrow toward a China-LAC community with a shared future.

Participating ministers spoke highly of LAC-China relations and echoed the cooperation proposals by State Councilor Wang. They commended China's open and responsible efforts since the start of COVID-19 to promote international cooperation and experience sharing, and China's commitment to make the COVID-19 vaccine a global public good when available and ensure its accessibility.

The ministers stressed that as no country can stay unaffected by this virus that defies national borders, the international community should uphold multilateralism, enhance solidarity and collaboration, support WHO in performing its important duty, and oppose any politicization and stigmatization in the name of COVID-19.

The ministers reaffirmed support for efforts to safeguard an open, non-discriminatory international trading system, maintain the smooth flow of goods, advance economic reopening, and pave the way for post-COVID recovery and sustainable development. Committed to a long-term relationship with China, LAC countries stand ready to deepen cooperation in such areas as health, trade, investment, science, technology, agriculture and digital economy, with the aim of taking the LAC-China comprehensive cooperative partnership to a new level.

The conference adopted the Joint Statement of the Special Video Conference of China and Latin American and Caribbean Countries' Foreign Ministers on COVID-19.

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