Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping hails 'new horizons' for China and Argentina on visit to Buenos Aires

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 July, 2014, 6:13am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 July, 2014, 10:07am

Relations between Argentina and China were poised to reach unprecedented "new horizons", visiting President Xi Jinping said yesterday, addressing lawmakers in Buenos Aires.

Xi is on a Latin American charm offensive to secure bilateral trade deals - particularly coveted raw materials - from governments in the region.

China is Argentina's second-largest trading partner after neighbour Brazil. Last year, Argentina's trade deficit with China rose more than 20 per cent to US$5.8 billion.

"Our two countries find themselves at a historic crossroads," Xi said as he met Vice-President Amado Boudou and the heads of both chambers of Argentina's legislature.

And he told lawmakers: "We have just marked 10 years in the strategic association between Argentina and China and the time has come to open new horizons."

On Friday, Argentina signed deals to borrow US$7.5 billion from China at a time when the Latin American country cannot tap global capital markets because of disputes over unpaid debt.

Among the deals, Xi and his Argentine counterpart Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner agreed on a US$4.7 billion loan from the China Development Bank for the construction of two hydroelectric dams in Patagonia.

China Gezhouba Group and Argentina's Electroingenieria won contracts last year to build the two dams, which will have a combined generating capacity of 1,740 megawatts.

The bank also granted a US$2.1 billion loan to finance a long-delayed railway project that would make it more efficient to transport grains from Argentina's agricultural plains to its ports.

"It's a day we can define as foundational in the relations between our two countries," Fernandez said after signing the deals.

Xi, the first Chinese president to visit Argentina in a decade, arrived in the capital, Buenos Aires, after participating in a summit of emerging economies of the BRICS nations - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - in Brazil earlier in the week.

Xi also signed a three-year agreement for an US$11 billion swap operation between the central banks of Argentina and China that would let the Latin American country pay for Chinese imports with renminbi.

Additional reporting by Staff Reporter