The president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, met with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, during his official visit to the Asian giant. During the meeting, agreements were signed regarding data protection and cooperation with Colombian public media. In addition, Gustavo Petro proposed the construction of a subway in Bogotá.
After a day of diplomatic meetings to advocate for the country’s interests with this global power, the head of state held a private meeting with Xi Jinping, during which 12 bilateral cooperation agreements were signed in the areas of the economy, investment, trade, technology, environment, science, education, and culture.
The Colombian government has stated that “China will support the transformation and digital economy in Colombia, as well as data protection and security in the country.”
“The leaders positively valued the development of bilateral relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Colombia over the 43 years of diplomatic relations, based on mutual respect and mutual benefit, on an equal footing, and agreed to elevate the bilateral relationship to the level of a Strategic Partnership,” the Colombian Foreign Ministry announced.
The signed agreements
Among the 12 specific agreements signed following the meeting of the two heads of state, the Foreign Ministry reported understandings on sanitary protocols for the export of Colombian beef and quinoa to China, as well as memorandums of understanding in the areas of ICT, trade flow enhancement, economic cooperation, agriculture, and industry.
Similarly, a cultural cooperation program was agreed upon between the Ministries of Culture of Colombia and China, as well as the strengthening of cooperation in digital economy and data protection.
Another aspect of mutual collaboration involves a work plan between the Ministries of Education of Colombia and China for the years 2023-2028, as well as cooperation in investment for ecological development between the Ministry of Commerce of China and the Ministries of Environment and Sustainable Development and Mines and Energy of Colombia.
Finally, a memorandum of understanding was signed between China Media Group and National Radio Television of Colombia (RTVC).
In recent years, China has become a global power seeking a leadership role on the world stage. Until now, the Asian country had maintained distant relations with Colombia, traditionally the United States’ most important ally in the Andean region. With this visit, President Petro has emphasized the importance of China as a central trade partner for Colombia, both now and in the future.
China’s presence in Latin America has been significant for some years at the commercial level, which inevitably entails a notable political influence in the region. Petro has sought to highlight this strategic partnership, not with minor gestures but by aligning with the Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure development and international cooperation strategy promoted by the People’s Republic of China for the past ten years.
“We understand and support each other in vital interests. We are good friends and partners. Both countries are good friends through cooperation. I am willing to work with you to benefit both peoples,” said Xi Jinping.
The Fight for the Bogota Metro
Before the meeting with the Chinese consortium, Gustavo Petro met with the Consortium of the Corporation of Civil Engineering of China, a meeting in which the head of state sought to influence the construction of the Bogota metro by changing the elevated route through the city center.
There have been months of disputes and clashes with the mayor of Bogota, Claudia Lopez, over whether to modify the elevated route of Line 1 of the metro being built in the Colombian capital. While the mayoralty is not in favor of any changes, citing delays and a 12 trillion peso increase in costs, the country’s president is fighting to build that section of the central route underground.
In fact, following the meeting with the Chinese consortium, Petro told the media that it would be “foolish” for Bogota not to have an underground metro “if the nation is willing to finance 100% of the project.”
However, it is clear that at the end of the meetings, Colombian official sources have not reported any concrete agreements that would represent a change in the mega-project.
On the Situation in Israel
The recent increase in violence in Israeli territory also occupied part of the discussion between the two leaders. It’s worth noting the controversies that the Colombian head of state has had with Israeli authorities in response to the way the Netanyahu government has reacted to the Hamas attack on Israeli civilians on October 7th.
“Both parties agree on the urgency of encouraging the parties to achieve a ceasefire and an end to the violence, protect civilians to prevent further humanitarian disasters, and resume peace talks as soon as possible. They also call for the convening of a peace conference to achieve international consensus on the coexistence of the two states, Palestine and Israel,” the Colombian Foreign Ministry emphasized.