MANAGUA – Part of the Sandinistas’ strategy to diversify economic and trade relations has been to court the People’s Republic of China without upsetting Nicara-gua’s traditional relations with Taiwan. While pundits have speculated that Nicaragua would be the second country in Central America to dump Taiwan for China, follow- ing Costa Rica’s decision to do so in 2007, so far the Sandinistas have maintained a more artful balancing act between the two Chinas.
Last month, Nicaragua hosted the second annual ExpoChina trade show in Managua, drawing some 50 Chinese businesses interested in trading electronics, automobiles, farming equipment, medical equipment, cell phones and energy technology. China, according to Ling Fengjie, director of the Chinese trade delegation, is interested in importing Nicaraguan agricultural products, sugar, wood and leather goods.
The Chinese presence, however, has raised some questions about why the second-largest economy in the world is interested in trading with the second-poorest economy in the Western Hemisphere, or if other political interests are at play. Nicaragua’s Nica-China Friendship Association (PRO-NicaChina) is headed by Sandinista comandante Bayardo Arce, President Daniel Ortega’s top economic advisor.
Nicaragua has sidestepped questions about whether China could be using pretext of commercial relations as a beachhead for establishing diplomatic relations.
“The objective of our association is to promote friendship and economic cooperation between people of Nicaragua and China, and it’s up to the government of Nicaragua to deal with issues of diplomacy and political relations,” Nicaraguan delegate Ajax Delgado told The Nica Times. “But our efforts are strictly commercial.”
Delgado stressed that trade with China is “fundamental” to the Nicaragua’s strategy to diversify their markets.
“Right now we are buying Chinese pro-ducts through Panama, the United States, Costa Rica and Mexico. But we want to buy directly from China, ” Delgado explained.