14 Feb, 2011
China discussing Panama Canal
China is said to be toying the idea of building an alternative to
the Panama Canal that would link Colombia's Atlantic and Pacific
coasts by rail, in an attempt to spur Congressional approval of a
US-Colombia free-trade pact.
"It's a real proposal, and it is quite advanced", said the
Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos. The studies that the
Chinese have made on the costs of transporting per tonne, as well
as the cost of investment, all work out, he added.
The 220km "dry canal" would run from the Pacific to a new city near
Cartagena, where imported Chinese goods would be assembled for
The mooted rail link also marks China's increasing aggressive
lending to the developing world. Notably, over the past two years,
Chinese banks have lent more to developing countries than the World
Bank. "Asia is the new motor of the world economy", Santos
Colombia has long dreamt of building an alternative to the Panama
Canal. The country is the US's closest ally in South America, but
Bogotá is frustrated by Washington's stalling over a
free-trade agreement which was signed by both governments four
years ago, but yet to be ratified by the Congress.
Notably, bilateral Sino-Colombian trade has soared from $10 million
in 1980 to more than $5 billion in 2010, marking China as
Colombia's second-biggest trade partner after the US.
"Colombia has a very important strategic position, and we view the
country as a port to the rest of Latin America", said Gao Zhengyue,
China's ambassador to Colombia.