Argentine President Mauricio Macri and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have signed in Beijing 16 agreements worth at least US$17 billion in areas such as energy and transport infrastructure, confirming the close links between the two countries.
Macri's tour, which also includes Japan, has been based on securing public and private investment in Argentina and promoting the country for trade and business opportunities among Asian stakeholders.
“In China we felt that we took a very positive step forward, this is the third time in less than 18 months that I meet with Xi Jinping and we have been able to create a personal relationship, and that is always important, and above all there has been an increase in confidence between both countries, between both governments” said Macri as he wrapped up the China meetings, heading to Japan.
Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra noted that over the next five years, the agreements signed with China could amount to investment worth US$32 billion from Beijing.
“As these projects run for five years, some of these projects will be consolidated over time. But what is important from the point of view of the Chinese is that they are seeking a long-term plan of complementation. With China we have an integral strategic complementation, and it includes every sector that is part of the bilateral relationship.”
Among the agreements are commitments for the construction of two new nuclear power plants. “Those two power plants have to be settled with the technical details of the construction. But there has already been a commitment based on the progress that has been made so far and we are speaking about an investment of US$ 12 billion that is independent of the five-year plan.”
The package also includes two major hydroelectric dams in the province of Santa Cruz, President Nestor Kirchner and Governor Jorge Cepernic, negotiations for which were started by ex president Cristina Fernandez and are currently stalled on environment discussions. A huge photovoltaic farm is also planned in the northern province of Jujuy, next to Bolivia.
The governments agreed on the extension of visas for 10 years, with multiple entries to inject Chinese tourism in Argentina. There were also agreements in matters of agro-industry, along with major transport works such as the refurbishment of the San Martín freight train. Worth an investment of US$2.4 billion, and generating some 26,000 jobs directly and indirectly, the plan calls for cooperation with the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC). The San Martín freight line connects Mendoza to the port of Buenos Aires and the refurbishment is projected to take 39 months. Estimates say that the improved line will allow for the transport of 13 million tons by 2024, up on the current 2.3 million tons. Argentine inputs will account for 72% of the project.
In addition, the Chinese government renewed a credit for the refurbishment of the Belgrano Cargas freight train that was started during the Cristina Fernández administration.
In the cultural field a program to promote soccer in China was signed which will include sending coaches and teams to the Asian giant, Apparently president Xi is a great fan of football as is Macri who was for several years president of Argentina's most popular team, Boca Juniors.
During the official visit to China, Macri advocated the “re-launch” of bilateral relations, forecasting that “the following 10 years will be more important than the last 45,” called for “improving the trade balance” and asserted that Argentina wants “to stop being the world’s grains basket to become the world’s supermarket.”
Macri also welcomed the idea of a “free and open market” that China proposed at the international forum, and advocated a “smart and gradual integration with the world.”
“Argentina, particularly, has ahead the important task to rebuild roads, bridges, ports and airports that unite us the Chinese have the capacity to do it in our region. There are already many companies that chose the region and I hope we can find many more that want to invest,” said Macri.
The Argentine president's visit to China was part of the “One Belt, One Road” trade initiative strongly sponsored by Beijing which promotes trade and peace, softly moving into the open spaces left by the US under the Trump administration.