World Bulletin / News Desk
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao wrapped up a tour of resource-rich Latin America on Tuesday by offering $10 billion in credit for infrastructure projects and calling for a joint push to combat protectionism.
Wen proposed a free-trade deal with the Mercosur bloc and signed a series of investment accords during the trip to the region, a key source of agricultural and mineral commodities and a growing market for Chinese exports.
"The Chinese government ... will continue to offer economic assistance to countries in the region that are interested," Wen told the U.N. regional economic body ECLAC in Chile, the world's No. 1 copper exporter.
He said China's Development Bank would implement a $10 billion credit program for infrastructure projects. He also said China would create a $5 billion fund for cooperation between China and Latin America and the Caribbean.
"We have to combat trade protectionism, broaden the mutual openness of our markets, optimize the trade structure and diversify cooperation in terms of customs and quality control," Wen said. He added that China aims to nearly double trade with Latin America in five years to over $400 billion.
Last year, 8.9 percent of all regional exports were destined for Chinese shores and 13.8 percent of imports were made in China, as trade between the Asian giant and Latin America and the Caribbean surged nearly 30 percent in the 2005 to 2011 period, according to ECLAC data.
"China wants to have more balanced trade with Latin America ... we hope that in the future we can import more types of products, including value-added products," Wen said.
The head of ECLAC, Alicia Barcena, welcomed Wen's words to improve trade ties and diversify away from commodities-based exports.
"It's very interesting that (Wen) came to the region to deliver a message that China isn't only interested in Latin America's and the Caribbean's raw materials, but that it wants a long-term strategic relationship," Barcena told Reuters. "That's very good news for the region."
Emergency food reserve mechanism
Fears of a hard landing in China, the world's No. 2 economy, have sent jitters through Latin America, as the Asian giant's annual growth target for 2012 looks increasingly in jeopardy as demand at home falters and Europe's debt crisis worsens.
"China is also considering the possibility of negotiating and signing agreements for local currency swap agreements ... and increasing the reciprocal creation of bank branches," Wen said.
The Chinese leader also called for cooperation from regional leaders on food security and to that effect invited Latin American and Caribbean agriculture ministers to a meeting in China in 2013.
"We also propose to establish between China and the region an emergency food reserve mechanism of 500,000 tons, which will be used for natural disasters and humanitarian aid," Wen said.
Earlier on Tuesday Wen said China and Chile planned to double bilateral trade flows to $60 billion by 2015. China is the world's biggest consumer of metals, including Chilean copper.
"These are two countries that can perfectly complement each other, most of all because Chile is a highly rich country, intensive in commodities that China is going to need to continue growing at the same rhythm," said Benjamin Sierra, financial markets economist at Scotiabank in Santiago.
China has made relatively few major investments in Chile, however, despite being its main trade partner and sharing a free-trade agreement.
On Tuesday, Wen signed accords with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera to strengthen legal safeguards for investors from either country.
In another accord, Chinese renewable energy company Sky Solar, state-backed China Development Bank and Chilean industrial group Sigdo Koppers said they planned to make a Chinese firm's biggest investment in the Andean country by building a $900 million solar energy park.
The plan help bring down current EU-wide employment of some 10 percent, the ILO said.
A stand-off between the United States and Japan over access to farm and auto markets has been holding up negotiations over the 12-nation trade pact, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Hollande calls on companies and investors to join in 'fighting climate change'.
Currency market players 'would see opportunities' in central bank's measures, billionaire currency investor warns.
Schauble denies reports Berlin has prepared for the possibility Greece may leave the euro if Syriza party wins Greek elections.
The incident at the bank weakened the Libyan dinar against the dollar on the parallel market.
Support for Russian companies, small businesses and social spending make up bulk of new measures aimed at supporting ailing Russian economy.
In just seven days the central bank spent nearly $7bn of its reserves.
The site is on 233 hectares of reclaimed land in the capital, Colombo. Under the proposed deal, 108 hectares would be given to the Chinese firm, including 20 hectares on an outright basis and the rest on a 99-year lease.
The ECB said it would purchase sovereign debt from this March until the end of September 2016, despite opposition from Germany's Bundesbank
President pushes currency, fuel reforms for ailing Venezuela
All eyes on size, details of expected stimulus programme, Greek banks bounce as emergency line granted.
Greek government officials argued that they only needed to find additional cuts worth about 500 million euros.
Former U.S Treasury secretary: "Europe is not growing and is on the brink of deflating."