Greater China-ASPA cooperation benefits development

GMT 22:05 2016 Saturday ,23 January

Arab Today, arab today Greater China-ASPA cooperation benefits development

Greater China-ASPA cooperation benefits development
Caracas - XINHUA

A volatile geopolitical landscape makes greater cooperation between the Summit of South American-Arab Countries (known by its Spanish acronym ASPA), and an emerging power such as China, essential to promoting development, experts agree.

"The task is to unite the worlds of the South, diversify international ties and overcome the type of relationship that prevailed in relation to the West, which exercised hegemony over other nations to their detriment," political analyst Laila Tajeldine told Xinhua in an interview.

The question of increased inter-regional cooperation between China, Latin America and the Arab world comes amid Chinese President Xi Jinping's three-nation tour of the Middle East.

Since ASPA was created in 2005 as a mechanism to promote cooperation among the 22 members of the Arab League and the 12-member Union of South American Nations (Unasur), bi-regional trade has grown from an initial 6 billion U.S. dollars to 33 billion dollars last year.

Now that it has proven effective, the association's ability to tackle social and political challenges has taken a more strategic turn, especially given the plummeting oil prices, a staple export for both regions, the wars being waged in the Middle East and the resulting terrorism, said Tajeldine.

One way to boost ASPA's effectiveness even further would be to increase its interaction with an emerging power like China, added Tajeldine, a lawyer by training who also teaches and hosts a radio program in Venezuela.

Depending on how these regions come together, they could potentially work to eradicate terrorism, bring greater stability to the energy market, and promote peace in conflict-torn zones, such as Palestine, said Tajeldine.

Raimundo Kabchi, political analyst and author of the book "The Arab World and Latin America", agreed. He said it is essential for the bi-regional bloc to "consolidate a strong alliance as a single organization with common policies," to become more effective.

According to Tajeldine, the key lies in partnering with China.

The Arab League, said Tajeldine, is vulnerable to Western attempts to fragment and weaken the region, making it necessary for Arab countries to form alliances with other poles of power.

One "important partner" would be China, a country that "has had the strength and power to break with the subordination" some countries were forced into by signing unfavorable agreements with the United States, she said.

The foundations for greater cooperation are already there, noted Tajeldine, adding the China-Arab Cooperation Forum, signed in 2004 by the Asian giant and the Arab League, aims to jointly spur development through the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.

"For Arab League nations, these ties (with China) have served to give them a respite, a respite that has allowed them to enjoy good relations and contribute to the benefit of their peoples," said Tajeldine.

China also has close ties with ASPA's other region, through its newer partnership with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said Tajeldine.

Together these three regions represent a new triad in international relations, she said.

Thanks to the joint efforts of China's President Xi Jinping and his Latin American counterparts, in January of 2015 the first ever China-CELAC ministerial forum was held in Beijing, where participants agreed on a road map to deepen cooperation.

These developments attest to the emergence of a new "multipolar" world, where south-south cooperation between Latin America and the Arab world, with China's input, no longer needs "to hew to a foreign dictate, but develop jointly from their similar realities," said Tajeldine.

For Kabchi, there is yet another important reason for these three regions to work closely together.

With some 90 percent of the members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) belonging either to the Arab world or Latin America, there should be joint efforts to stabilize the energy market, which has seen the price of a barrel of oil plummet to below 25 U.S. dollars.

"Given the crisis we are experiencing in the price of crude, we can work to promote unity in favor of" stabilizing prices, Kabchi said.

Venezuela will host the 5th ASPA Summit in 2018, drawing the 34 countries of the bi-regional bloc.


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