(Adds comment from Siemens)
By Daniel Ramos
LA PAZ, March 22 Dozens of German companies
including Siemens attended meetings in Bolivia this
week to discuss building a coast-to-coast railway through
Brazil, Bolivia and Peru that could speed up the export of corn
and soybeans to Asia, German and Bolivian officials said on
The massive, $10 billion project would involve building a
3,700-kilometer (2,299-miles) rail line across the continent,
linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, through mountains and
"This is the project of the century," said Germany's State
Secretary of German Transport, Building and Urban Development
Representatives from Brazil, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay and
Bolivia as well as Germany and Switzerland are still studying
the feasibility of the train route, which would drastically
shorten shipping routes from Brazil's coast to Asian markets for
Siemens, Europe's top engineering group, participated in the
meetings "to get more information about the project," spokesman
Dennis Hofmann said in an email.
"The project is at an early stage and questions have to be
clarified," he wrote.
The discussions, on Tuesday and Wednesday, come after a
similar, Chinese-led project build a trans-South America railway
ran into roadblocks late last year due to cost and environmental
Bolivian and German officials did not name other companies
that attended the meetings, but Bomba said: "The presence of 40
German companies here demonstrates that Germany is not only in
the planning phase, but also in the realization phase."
Bolivia's Public Works Minister Milton Claros told Reuters
Bolivia and Germany had signed agreements for technical
assistance and financing for the project. The ministry said the
project would connect the Brazilian port of Santos to the
Peruvian port of Ilo and had a preliminary cost estimate of $10
Brazil is expected to export 28 million tonnes of corn and
61 million tonnes of soybeans in the 2016/17 crop year according
to the USDA. It is the world's largest soybean exporter and
second-largest corn exporter.
China and Peru agreed in 2015 to study a 3,000-mile-long
railway through the Andes, but Peru balked when China estimated
its cost at $60 billion. Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski
later said the rail should go through Bolivia.
Land-locked Bolivia has long pined for a corridor to the
Pacific, blasting Chile for taking its coastline in a war in the
late 19th century and maintaining its Navy on Lake Titicaca.
Brazil had also questioned the Chinese project and would
likely back the Bolivian route, a member of the Brazilian
"We identified problems in the reports made by the Chinese
group. We communicated the points of disagreement to Chinese
authorities and we are seeing how we can continue the studies,"
said Joao Carlos Parkinson, coordinator of economic affairs at
Brazil's Foreign Ministry, who attended the meetings.
Brazil's Ambassador to Bolivia Raymundo Santos said talks
"Our delegation confirmed Brazil's interest in
participating," he said. "The political side has been resolved,
but now the technical work has to move forward."
(Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Luc Cohen and Sandra