A delegation from China will visit Argentina this month to discuss the construction of a nuclear power plant, signaling possible progress in a deal that could increase Beijing’s deepening influence in Argentina. Accordingly, the “technical team” from China would meet local suppliers about the long-stalled nuclear power plant project, reportedly worth up to US$8 billion.
Argentina had hoped to announce an agreement on China-financed construction of Atucha III, as it has been referred to in the past, during a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping after November’s G20 summit in Buenos Aires.
But the deal failed to emerge then, and in January Argentina’s nuclear energy undersecretary, Julian Gadano, and the ambassador to China, Diego Guelar, met officials in Beijing for talks about the project, the government source said.
Foreign ministry officials said talks about the nuclear plant with China were ongoing but added that there had been no “concrete progress” toward signing a deal.
If finalized, the nuclear plant would be one of the biggest projects financed in Argentina by China, which has become a key trading partner for Buenos Aires and its biggest non-institutional lender.
The power plant deal was first negotiated under the administration of former president Cristina Fernandez, a populist who left office in 2015 after striking a number of deals with China.
When Argentina signed a US$56.3 billion financing deal with the International Monetary Fund to rescue its troubled economy last year, US President Donald Trump voiced his support for the plan and the leadership of center-right President Mauricio Macri.
Marci took a tough stance against China on the campaign trail, saying he would review some of the deals Fernandez had made with the country. But China has emerged as a critical trading partner, investor and financier for the US allies nonetheless, as part of its long-running push into Latin America.