China is in negotiations over the construction of a rail link across Colombia to rival the Panama Canal.
The 137 mile "dry canal,” linking Colombia's Atlantic and Pacific coasts, would make it easier for China to export goods across Latin America and import raw materials such as coal.
"It's a real proposal … and it is quite advanced," Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia's president told the Financial Times.
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"The studies [the Chinese] have made on the costs of transporting per ton, the cost of investment, they all work out," Santos told the London newspaper.
The plan is for imported Chinese goods to be re-assembled at a new city near Cartagena, on Colombia's northern Atlantic coast, for export across the Americas.
Raw materials would be exported from Colombia and other South American countries from the Pacific end of the railway.
Colombia, the world's fifth largest coal producer, currently ships most of its exports through the Atlantic ports despite faster growing demand across the Pacific.
"I don't want to create exaggerated expectations, but it makes a lot of sense," Santos said. "Asia is the new motor of the world economy."
"Colombia has a very important strategic position, and we view the country as a port for the rest of Latin America," China's ambassador to Colombia Gao Zhengyue told the Financial Times.
China and Colombia are negotiating over other transport projects, including the construction of a 495 mile railway and expansion of the Pacific port of Buenaventura at a cost of $7.6 billion.
The Panama Canal is undergoing a $5.25 billion expansion to double the capacity of the waterway.
-- Contact Bruce Barnard at email@example.com.