Interview: Ecuadorian president hopes Xi's visit will boost bilateral cooperation

QUITO -- Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa hopes Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming state visit to his country will expand cooperation between the two sides in various fields.

The goal, Correa told Xinhua in a recent interview, is to "mutually make the most" of the strategic partnership.

Xi's visit later this week, as part of a three-country tour to Latin America, will be both "historic and beneficial," he said, noting it will mark the first time a Chinese head of state visits Ecuador, which established diplomatic ties with the Asian giant 36 years ago.

In 2015, on his second visit to China after coming to power in 2007, Ecuador and China agreed to elevate the ties to the level of strategic partnership.

CHINESE FINANCING OF STRATEGIC PROJECTS

The Ecuadorian president spoke highly of the importance of Chinese investment in his country, whose economy, in his word, has long been constrained by financing.

Correa said China has taken part in the development of economy, industry and energy in Ecuador as a strategic partner and his country has become one of the countries that attracted the most Chinese funds.

China has funneled some 15 billion U.S. dollars in financing the South American nation in the past 10 years.

"China's support, through projects and financing, has really changed the history of Ecuador," Correa said.

Small developing countries, like Ecuador, have no internal source of financing, which they need "in emerging from underdevelopment," he said.

"We have very profitable projects, but need that financing, (and) China has it," he added.

"Thanks to the financing cooperation with China, Ecuador got rid of one of the worst roadway networks in South America, and has the best now," he said.

PROMISING PRAGMATIC COOPERATION

The two countries have achieved important progress in cooperation in energy, mining and infrastructure construction.

Of the eight hydropower stations under construction and finished, seven were constructed by Chinese firms, which has helped turn the once energy-poor Ecuador into an energy exporter.

During his visit, Xi is set to symbolically inaugurate the Coca Codo Sinclair station, the largest of the hydropower stations, at a ceremony in the capital Quito, since the facility is located in a remote region between the Amazonian provinces of Napo and Sucumbios.

The station with an installed capacity of 1,500 megawatts, was built by China's Sinohydro.

"These projects have allowed us to obtain our energy independence, (and) to have one of the most environmentally-friendly energy sources," Correa said.

"More than 90 percent of our energy can now come from clean and renewable hydropower, and that is due in part to Chinese cooperation and financing," he added.

Correa, who is to leave office in May 2017, hopes China will continue to invest in Ecuador, which has a portfolio of some 40-billion-dollar worth of "profitable projects" in shipbuilding and steel.

"We have Chinese companies building highways and hydroelectric plants, and we have oil and mining companies. So there is already investment here. But many more highly profitable projects are hugely important to the country's development," he said.

Tourism is one area with much room to grow, said Correa.

Ecuador, which ranks among the world's top five countries in biodiversity, received 18,200 Chinese visitors in 2015.

The two countries have established close ties in the past decade, as evident from China's role in relief efforts after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that devastated towns along Ecuador's north coast in April, killing 673 people.

As one of the first countries to supply humanitarian aid immediately after the quake, China furnished more than 5,000 tents for the homeless and nearly 10,000 cots, among other basic supplies, and donated 2 million dollars in cash.

"I only have words of gratitude to President Xi Jinping, his government, and all of the Chinese people for the great solidarity they showed Ecuador," Correa said.

[ Editor: zyq ]
 

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