Xi vows support for Latin American projects, trade

BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping hailed burgeoning ties yesterday with Latin America, pledging to use his country’s economic clout to support billions of dollars in regional projects and almost double two-way trade to US$500 billion (S$670 billion) over the next 10 years.

Mr Xi was holding talks with officials from left-leaning nations in the western hemisphere a day after meeting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who said he received pledges of US$20 billion in Chinese investment into his country’s beleaguered economy.

 Mr Xi emphasised the potential for future growth in ties between China and the grouping of more than 30 nations known as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which together account for one-eighth of the global economy. The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and other leftist leaders pushed the bloc as an alternative to United States-led regional organisations.

“I am sure that this meeting will yield rich results, send to the world a strong message of our commitment to deepening cooperation for common development,” Mr Xi said.

He emphasised China’s commitment to its independent foreign policy and maintaining an equal partnership with the region, comments likely to appeal to many in the region who resent what they see as unfair dominance by the US.

Trade between China and the region has grown from US$10 billion in 2000 to US$257 billion in 2013, driven largely by Chinese demand for commodities such as crude oil and soybeans. While the country’s slowing growth will soften demand for such products, Mr Xi said Latin America and the Caribbean would benefit heavily from forecasts of US$10 trillion in Chinese imports over the next five years.

Along with the targeted increase in two-way trade, Mr Xi said he wanted to increase direct investment in the region to US$250 billion (S$334 billion) over the next five years.

China extended a US$20 billion loan to the region last July for infrastructure development, another US$10 billion in preferential loans, a US$5 billion fund for cooperation between the sides and US$50 million for agricultural development.


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