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Digital economy injects impetus to LatAm's trade, services

Xinhua News,SANTIAGO
2020-09-03 20:49

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SANTIAGO, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- While COVID-19 keeps causing economic fallout worldwide, digital technologies and services supported by the cooperation between China and Latin America have been creeping into the daily life of the people and providing momentum to economic growth in the region.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the DiDi Delivery service has helped a number of small- and medium-sized enterprises that run bricks-and-mortar stores, which were forced to shut down due to local lockdown measures, to meet their urgent needs to resume operation.

"DiDi Delivery has not only helped me finish all my orders, but also largely shortened the delivery time from several days to within 24 hours," said Andrea Wilkendorf, a Chilean entrepreneur who created "Pez Madera."

"The rapid delivery has promoted the brand's reputation and greatly increased our sales," she noted, adding that the service is now a must for her business.

Since this year, from contact-free infrared thermal imaging devices to COVID-19 diagnostic techniques assisted by artificial intelligence, from telecommuting to online courses and even faster online transactions, digital technologies and services have supported Latin America's economy to grow.

"Because of the pandemic, traditional trade and people-to-people exchanges have been blocked. People were forced to choose online communication and transactions," said Zhou Mi, deputy director of the Institute of American and Oceanian Study at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.

There are always some opportunities in a crisis, Zhou stressed, saying "digital economy is becoming a highly potential field for service trade between the two sides."

Thanks to the "internet plus" services upgrade between China and Latin America, small enterprise owners in Chile managed to keep her business.

"In Latin America, the epidemic has caused a surge in demand for online medical inquiries, telecommuting and online education, putting great pressure on the networks of all countries," noted Wu Xiaoliang, vice president of Public and Government Affairs Department of Chinese tech giant Huawei.

"Facing this situation, Huawei and local operators in Latin America responded actively to ensure the normal operation of the current network," Wu said.

In the eyes of Zhou, China and Latin America have a promising future for bilateral cooperation in the field of e-commerce, with increasing support in such fields as communications, logistics, big data and cloud computing.

"While geographical distance is a key constraint to the development of economic and trade cooperation between China and Latin America, service trade, which eliminates the problems caused by long distance, serves as a good way to promote bilateral economic and trade cooperation," Zhou said.

Brazil is the top market among the 200-plus sales countries and regions worldwide of AliExpress, an international online shopping platform under Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. However, its business was hit hard when the pandemic broke out at the beginning of the year, when the capacity of international logistics was largely reduced and the exchange rate adversely affected.

To solve the problem, AliExpress has launched new services in Brazil including charter flights and centralized transportation, allowing cross-store orders to be shipped altogether and orders over 30 U.S. dollars enjoying free shipping.

According to data compiled by AliExpress, the centralized transportation service has become the second most popular logistics service in Brazil within six months. And as the Chinese online retail service further lowered in August the threshold of free shipping to 15 dollars, the volume of centralized transportation rose by another 50 percent.

Zhou said that cross-border e-commerce has not only enabled Latin Americans to enjoy made-in-China products online, but also allowed high-quality Latin American agri-products into Chinese homes, bringing benefits to both sides.

China and Latin America have also deepened cooperation in public health this year with the help of new technologies.

During the pandemic, Huawei joined hands with China's Huazhong University of Science and Technology and Lanwon technology to develop an auxiliary diagnosis and treatment system for COVID-19. The system, which integrates cloud computing and artificial intelligence technologies, was then deployed in many hospitals in Latin American countries such as Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Panama and so on.

"The worldwide spread of the pandemic has hit the traditional trade and services hard. But in emerging service industries, especially knowledge-intensive services which are digitally-deliverable, growth has been achieved to a certain extent amid depression," said Li Jun, director of the Institute of International Trade in Service at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.

Many enterprises and business associations from Latin America will show up in the China International Fair for Trade in Services, scheduled for Sept. 4-9 in Beijing.

Looking ahead, Zhou believed that while some countries choose beggar-thy-neighbor polices to protect their own interests, China and Latin America will firmly support free trade because it will help both sides achieve better development and survive the crisis.
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