Peru looks again at Chinese plan for $60bn trans-American railway

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra has said a Chinese plan to build a railway from sea to sea across South America could be revived after it was dismissed three years ago as unaffordable.

Vizcarra told Reuters that studies on the project had continued and that China might be a natural fit because it would be the main buyer of commodities the railway would carry to a Peruvian port on the Pacific coast.

He said: "Between the two of us [Peru and Bolivia] we need a third partner to help turn it into reality". Asked if China might still be that partner, he said: "Yes, of course, because we need a partner that benefits from the project … Is it the only one? No."

He said he plans to discuss the scheme with Bolivian president Evo Morales later this month.

In September 2016, Vizcarra, then transport minister, balked at China’s $60bn cost estimate for the 5,300km line, some $35bn of which would have to be provided by Peru.

At the time, he told Peruvian radio the cost estimate by China Railway Group took Lima by surprise, adding: "With that money we could build a lot of projects to benefit Peruvians."

Reuters reported that in December, the Peruvian government lowered the cost of the Peruvian portion of the project to about $7.5bn.

China has overtaken the US as Peru’s largest trading partner, notes Reuters, thanks largely to Peru’s exports of copper and other minerals.

Last month, Peru signed onto China’s Belt and Road initiative, despite US warnings to Latin America against strengthening ties with Beijing.

Image: The Amazon rainforest in Peru (Dreamstime)

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