Despite the strong questioning from the opposition, the manufacturers' lobby and many unions, the Argentine ruling coalition mustered sufficient votes in the Lower House to pass the controversial package of cooperation, economic and investment agreements between Argentina and China.
Among other issues in exchange for financial support, dollar-starving Argentina is committed to purchasing Chinese technology, allowing Chinese labor to the country and awarding contracts to Chinese companies with no bidding process when the funds are supplied by Beijing.
The areas of cooperation are not limited to public works or infrastructure; they also include energy, manufacturing, mining, technology, agriculture.
The whole of the Lower House opposition voted against the major agreement arguing that too many benefits are granted to China and it gives the Argentine government discretional powers to negotiate.
However the ruling coalition of President Cristina Fernandez underlined the 'strategic integral alliance' with China and argued that the agreements will help Argentina modernize industry and facilitate funds for much needed public works.
Finally after over twelve hours of debate the vote went for the government 133 to 108.
The ruling Victory Front (FPV) also managed to pass the bill that enables the construction of a Chinese space station in Neuquén province. The president of the Foreign Relations Committee Guillermo Carmona praised the overall deal and denied versions the space station would be used for military purposes.
Ricardo Alfonsin from the Radical Party (UCR) questioned the agreement and criticized what he called the internationalization of Argentine economy, meaning key resources were given to a foreign power with the deal and a space station, 'who knows with what purpose'.
Argentina will lease free of charge and for fifty years, a 200 acres plot of land in Neuqen province where the space station will be mounted. All equipment and support materials needed for the station will be introduced to Argentina tariff-free. This is clearly an infringement of Argentina's sovereignty complained the opposition.
Among the joint projects are the construction of a nuclear plant, Atucha III; two hydroelectric dams in Santa Cruz, one named Kirchner and the other Cepernic; refurbishing the cargo railways system; purchase of vessels and dredges; irrigation projects in the province of Entre Rios plus the space station. This is supported by a financial swap of currencies (Yuan and Pesos) to the tune of 11bn dollars.
This clearly knocks out national interest, condemning Argentine industry. The Chinese are coming with funds, companies, technology and labor and all that causes a major misbalance in the context of any negotiation warned Mario Negri, opposition lawmaker.
Conservative lawmaker Federico Sturzenegger pointed out that if bilateral trade deficit with China was already above 5.8bn dollars, instead of looking for other markets, the government only wanted to rescue its disastrous financial and economic policies with the swaps for investing in public works.
We are facing a clear abandonment of Argentine manufacturing to the benefit of Chinese production and technology, said dissident Peronist lawmaker Felipe Sola.
However at the end of the debate ruling coalition Deputy Roberto Feletti argued that it is only logical that in expanding trade Argentina signs a bilateral agreement with China, and blasted those who insist in privileging links with the US.
Before the start of the debate, a minute of silence to honor Alberto Nisman was held at the request of Radical Party’s (UCR) Mario Negri. Meanwhile, head of the Victory Front (FpV) caucus Juliana Di Tullio requested an applause to mark the 65th birthday of late ex president Néstor Kirchner.