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Honduras proposes the construction of an interoceanic train in Central America with Chinese aid

by | Oct 8, 2023

The economic relationship between Honduras and China is a dynamic and evolving partnership that has gained significant momentum over the past two decades. Honduras, a Central American nation with a growing economy, and China, the world’s second-largest economy, have forged ties encompassing a range of economic activities and strategic interests.

Honduras proposes the construction of an interoceanic train in Central America

With an estimated investment of 20 billion dollars, the recently expressed proposal was made within the so-called Honduras-China Mixed Trade and Investment Commission framework, where both nations also carried out the first round of negotiations to sign a Free Trade Treaty (FTA).

The Honduran government proposed to China the construction of an interoceanic train in Central America to link the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, Economic Development Minister Fredy Cerrato said on Friday.

“We are talking about the construction of dams, the construction of an interoceanic railway in Central America that has to do with the electricity generation system,” Cerrato said at a press conference.

The official commented that the Chinese government has shown interest in the proposal with both public and private investment.

If approved, the interoceanic train in Central America would be operational in about 15 years, Cerrato added.

Honduras recently began negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China after establishing diplomatic relations in March between the Central American country and the Asian giant and the break with Taiwan.

A statement from the Honduran government reported on the “beginning of the negotiations of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the People’s Republic of China and Honduras” in a “milestone” for bilateral relations.

The two countries will seek “a broad and equitable trade agreement that considers the asymmetries, sensitivities, and development needs of Honduras.”

Characteristics of the economic relationship between Honduras and China include:

Trade Relations

One of the central pillars of the economic relationship between Honduras and China is their robust trade partnership. Honduras exports various goods to China, primarily agricultural products, such as bananas, coffee, and seafood. In return, China exports various manufactured goods to Honduras, including electronics, machinery, and textiles. This trade relationship has expanded significantly recently, with bilateral trade volume surpassing $1 billion in 2019.

A trade imbalance characterizes the trade relationship between the two countries, as Honduras imports more from China than it exports. While this imbalance may pose challenges for Honduras, it also presents opportunities for further diversification and expansion of exports to China. To address this issue, both countries have explored avenues to enhance Honduran exports to China by improving product quality, exploring new market niches, and reducing trade barriers.

Investment Flows

China’s investment in Honduras has steadily increased over the years, reflecting its broader strategy of expanding its global economic footprint through investments in developing countries. Chinese investments in Honduras primarily focus on infrastructure development, energy projects, and telecommunications. Notable examples include the development of the deepwater port in Puerto Cortés, which has the potential to transform Honduras into a regional logistics hub, and the construction of the Patuca III hydroelectric plant. Partnering with Honduras to construct an interoceanic train in Central America will deepen this trend.

These investments have the potential to bolster Honduras’ economic development and improve its infrastructure, thus contributing to economic growth and job creation. However, they also come with challenges, such as concerns about large-scale projects’ environmental impact and financing agreements’ terms. Ensuring that investments are conducted transparently, adhere to environmental regulations, and benefit the local population is essential for the long-term success of these projects.

Cooperation and Development Assistance

China has increasingly become a source of development assistance and cooperation for Honduras. This assistance encompasses many areas, including healthcare, education, agriculture, and technology transfer. China’s South-South Cooperation framework has been instrumental in facilitating such aid to Honduras, with projects aimed at poverty reduction, technology transfer, and capacity building.

One notable example of cooperation is China’s provision of medical equipment and supplies to Honduras during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, China has supported agricultural initiatives in Honduras, including cultivating hybrid rice varieties and establishing agricultural technology demonstration centers.

Furthermore, educational and cultural exchanges have strengthened people-to-people ties between the two countries. Scholarships for Honduran students to study in China and vice versa have become more common, fostering mutual understanding and cultural exchange.

Geopolitical Implications

The economic relationship between Honduras and China also has geopolitical implications, as it aligns with China’s broader geopolitical strategy in the Latin American region. China has been actively engaging with countries in Latin America, including Honduras, through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which seeks to enhance connectivity and trade across the world and promote China’s geopolitical interests.

Honduras’ economic ties with China offer an alternative to traditional partnerships with Western countries. This diversification of diplomatic and economic relations can give Honduras increased leverage in international negotiations and reduce its dependency on a single trading partner.

Challenges and Future Prospects

While the economic relationship between Honduras and China presents numerous opportunities, it has challenges. Key challenges include addressing the trade imbalance, ensuring that Chinese investments benefit the local population, and managing environmental concerns associated with large infrastructure projects.

Moreover, as the global geopolitical landscape evolves, Honduras must carefully navigate its relationship with China to avoid potential political entanglements and maintain its sovereignty. Honduras needs to strike a balance between its economic interests and its diplomatic and strategic considerations.

Conclusion

The economic relationship between Honduras and China is characterized by a growing trade partnership, increasing Chinese investments in Honduras, and a wide range of development cooperation initiatives. This cooperation may expand to include the construction of an interoceanic train in Central America.

While challenges exist, such as the trade imbalance and environmental concerns, the relationship holds significant potential for both countries. As they continue to strengthen their ties, Honduras and China can mutually benefit from their economic engagement, contributing to Honduras’s economic development and prosperity and advancing China’s interests in the Latin American region.

 

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