By Anthony Esposito, Reuters
SANTIAGO — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao wrapped up a tour of resource-rich Latin America on Tuesday by offering US$10 billion in credit for infrastructure projects and calling for a joint push to combat protectionism. Wen proposed a free-trade deal with the Mercosur bloc and signed a series of investment accords during the trip to the region, a key source of agricultural and mineral commodities and a growing market for Chinese exports.
“The Chinese government … will continue to offer economic assistance to countries in the region that are interested,” Wen told the U.N. regional economic body ECLAC in Chile, the world’s No. 1 copper exporter. He said China’s Development Bank would implement a US$10 billion credit program for infrastructure projects. He also said China would create a US$5 billion fund for cooperation between China and Latin America and the Caribbean. “We have to combat trade protectionism, broaden the mutual openness of our markets, optimize the trade structure and diversify cooperation in terms of customs and quality control,” Wen said. He added that China aims to nearly double trade with Latin America in five years to over US$400 billion. Last year, 8.9 percent of all regional exports were destined for Chinese shores and 13.8 percent of imports were made in China, as trade between the Asian giant and Latin America and the Caribbean surged nearly 30 percent in the 2005 to 2011 period, according to ECLAC data. “China wants to have more balanced trade with Latin America … we hope that in the future we can import more types of products, including value-added products,” Wen said.