DUBAI, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela said here on Tuesday that his country and China will be connected not only through ports and infrastructure, but also through people-to-people ties.
He spoke to Xinhua on the sidelines of the ongoing two-day Global Business Forum on Latin America organized by the Dubai Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
"The future is not only defined by infrastructure but also by connecting people in order to improve their quality of life," said the president, adding that the Central American country supports the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and seeks to be part of it.
"We believe in a planet which has enough resources for everybody and a planet that is better connected," he said.
Proposed by China in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe, Africa and beyond, based on ancient land and maritime trade routes.
As a specific project, Varela said, "We are proposing the construction of a railroad between Panama and other Central American countries, with a 450-km track to our northern neighbor Costa Rica as the first step."
"We hope to get Chinese companies and Chinese technology to complete the entire project between 2022 and 2026. A railway connecting Central America could help to increase the flow of goods arriving from East Asia in Panama City," he said.
"Currently, 50 percent of cargo ships which come from China's east coast to us go back 50 percent empty. An enhanced infrastructure in our region can help reduce the number, improve two-way trade especially in food and agricultural products and make it more cost-efficient," said Varela.
Earlier in the day, it was reported that the China-designed bridge over the Panama Canal is 80-percent completed.
The president praised the role of Chinese technologies in people-to-people connectivity, saying "The new technology we have seen that is developed in China is amazing."
"We see a lot of potential in sharing information and connecting peoples, especially in education and healthcare," he said.
In his earlier speech, Varela also praised Dubai's role as a hub within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, which helps connect Latin America with Africa and Asia through its free port and its airport.
Varela made his first state visit to China in November 2017 after the Central American nation established diplomatic relations with China in June.