By Daniel Merolla ,AFP
BUENOS AIRES — Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping announced Friday huge investments in hydroelectric power, shipbuilding, railways and a deal to help Argentina build its fourth nuclear plant. No total dollar figure was given. Xi has pressed a charm offensive with Latin America since arriving in Brazil earlier this week.
Friday saw Argentina in the spotlight, with Xi signing more than 20 agreements with President Cristina Kirchner on the first day of his three-day visit. Among the agreements was a bilateral “strategic partnership,” similar to others signed with emerging nations such as Brazil. “I want to emphasize that we have signed an agreement to raise the level of our relations in order to turn them into a strategic partnership, along with investments in oil, mining, the nuclear field, agriculture and plant diseases,” Xi said, from the Casa Rosada presidential complex. China will contribute US$4.4 billion toward the construction of two hydroelectric dams in Argentina’s southern Santa Cruz province and an additional US$2.1 billion to remodel strategic rail transport for carrying goods, especially food. It will also contribute US$423 million for construction of 11 ships. “In today’s world, the best opportunities occur for emerging nations, as demonstrated in the recent BRICS summit in Brasilia,” Kirchner said. Xi was in Brazil this week for a summit of the BRICS group of emerging powers — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — and South American presidents. The gathering saw the countries agree to launch a New Development Bank to fund infrastructure projects in developing nations and an emergency reserve, drawing praise from Latin American presidents who see them as alternatives to Western-dominated financial institutions. Following the BRICS summit, Xi signed deals with Brazil Thursday, met with regional leaders and proposed a US$20 billion infrastructure fund that highlights Beijing’s growing interests in the region. The visit is Xi’s second to Latin America since taking office last year, when he toured Mexico, Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago. Amid its push to expand business in South America, China has invested some $23 billion in Argentine hydrocarbons, mining, finance and agricultural exports. China is Argentina’s third-largest trading partner behind the South American Mercosur bloc and the European Union, and one of its main destinations for food exports.