Peruvian Foreign Minister Gustavo Meza-Cuadra.
China Today (CT): How does the Peruvian government view the cooperation with China in the fight against COVID-19?
Gustavo Meza-Cuadra (GMC): The Peruvian government is making significant efforts to combat the pandemic caused by COVID-19, which have been further complemented thanks to the aid from international cooperation. Along that line, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ COVID-19 Working Group – which is responsible for managing donations and non-reimbursable international cooperation from various sectors, such as governments, companies, and civil sectors, amongst others – has been active since March 16.
In this context, our country has received major donations such as molecular test kits, personal protection equipment, and thermometers from the Chinese government, Chinese companies (Alibaba Group, Huawei, and BGI), and Chinese charities. In addition to this, on March 17 a donation made by China Three Gorges Corporation consisting of 25 ventilators, 36 defibrillators, 46 monitors, and 18 ultrasound dopplers – all of which are extremely useful in the fight against the virus – arrived in Peru.
The Peruvian government appreciates China’s rapid response to the requests for donations and non-reimbursable cooperation in the fight against COVID-19, which is a reflection of the historic friendship that unites both peoples, as well as the strengthening of our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
CT: What is your opinion of the way the Chinese government has dealt with the COVID-19 outbreak?
GMC: The way the Chinese government has dealt with the epidemic has been very befitting. The quarantines in specific areas, the mobilization of medical personnel to the most critical zones, and the construction of hospitals in record time were all impressive achievements.
President Xi Jinping’s effective management of the crisis has enabled schools, shops, and workplaces to reopen throughout the Chinese territory. Furthermore, the creation of the COVID-19 epidemic response group, led by Chinese Primer Li Keqiang, allowed prevention and control measures to be implemented in a timely manner.
International cooperation is of great importance, especially in difficult circumstances. In this context, the cooperation that the Chinese government provides – by sharing its experience in the fight against COVID-19, as well as making donations of medical equipment and supplies – is essential in helping the world face this pandemic.
CT: How does President Martín Vizcarra’s government view Chinese investment in Peru during such a complicated situation as this one?
GMC: Over the past 30 years, Chinese investment in Peru has continued to steadily increase thanks to the political rapprochement between the two countries, the rapid growth of our economy, macro-economic soundness, and political stability. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), after Brazil, Peru was the second highest recipient of direct foreign investment from China in the region, which amounted to approximately US $20.1 billion.
During the last decade, we have witnessed a significant amount of Chinese investment in key sectors in Peru: in 2014, MMG Minmetals invested close to US $10 billion in the Las Bambas project; in 2019, COSCO Shipping invested an estimated US $3 billion in the port of Chancay; and recently, in April of this year, Indecopi (National Institute for the Defense of Competition and Protection of Intellectual Property) approved the acquisition of 83.7 percent of Luz del Sur’s shares by China Yangtze Power (a subsidiary of China Three Gorges Corporation) representing an investment of US $3.59 billion.
Chinese investment is extremely important and will be all the more so following COVID-19, not only because of its role in economic reactivation, but also because of its potential in promoting the transfer of knowledge in new areas of technology that are fundamental for the economic development of Peru.
CT: How does the Peruvian government view the development of trade relations with China? Do you think the pandemic will affect those relations in any way?
GMC: Bilateral commerce between the two countries over the past three decades has been very dynamic, and since 2014, China has been our largest trading partner. In 2019, our commercial exchange with China was worth US $23.8 billion, representing 30 percent of our international trade.
Because of the current situation, bilateral trade is expected to decline by a certain degree, especially during the most critical stage of this pandemic. According to official figures, trade with China during the first quarter of 2020 amounted to US $4.6 billion, which represents a drop of 21 percent compared with the same period in 2019.
Nonetheless, China’s economic recovery is vital because it will contribute to the recovery of our own economy during the second half of 2020.
CT: Some governments have criticized the role the World Health Organization (WHO) has played in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, with the United States even announcing that it would withdraw its funding. In contrast, China has reaffirmed its support towards it. What is Peru’s stand on this issue?
GMC: The WHO is the only international public health organization, and because of that we should support it, especially under the global crisis that we are facing. Nonetheless, it is always important to examine international organizations’ performance in order to identify those areas that can be improved or enhanced with the experience acquired.
In the specific case of the response and mechanisms adopted by different countries in the face of COVID-19, an evaluation should be carried out when the time is right. At this critical moment, however, we should focus our efforts in overcoming the pandemic and its impacts, instead of diverting our attention.
This is in fact the basis of what the member states of the WHO agreed upon during the 73rd World Health Assembly on May 18-19, adopting by consensus a resolution on COVID-19 response. The initiative was sponsored by the European Union and co-sponsored by China and Peru, as well as many other countries.
CT: What do you think is the main lesson the world should draw from the fight against this invisible enemy that has caused havoc to humanity?
GMC: One of the most important things that the crisis caused by COVID-19 has taught us is that human well-being depends on the cooperation and solidarity of everyone.
Along that line, multilateralism and international cooperation are vital to developing medicines and vaccines, assisting in prevention and control measures, as well as sharing information.