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.
Gazprom and Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz have accused each other of not sticking to agreements on gas supplies.
The new canal, that will allow two-way traffic of larger ships, is supposed to increase revenues by 2023 to $13 billion.
A day after euro zone finance ministers agreed to a four-month extension of a financial rescue, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis gave a frank assessment of Greece's financial position.
The agreement is the culmination of talks that began in September after the government decided its own solutions to its fiscal crisis were failing to convince investors.
Energy union highlights bloc's attempt to seek independency from its main gas supplier - Russia.
Merkel's right-left coalition is set to prevail, despite vocal pockets of resistance on the right and left.
Republicans passed the bill to increase pressure on Obama to approve the pipeline, a move the president said would bypass a State Department process that will determine whether the project is in the U.S. national interest.
Turkish PM Davutoglu expresses Turkey's readiness to help in supplying energy to Central Europe.
General Atomics won a $200 million contract in 2013 from the United Arab Emirates for supply of an unspecified number of predator drones, the first such sale in the region
Gazprom said in a statement that Ukraine had 219 million cubic metres (mcm) of gas left that would be used up in two days.
Greece's reform list must be accepted by its EU creditors in order for the indebted country to receive bailout extension.
Recent increases to fuel and toll prices, and taxes, are cited as among the truck drivers' main grievances
Under the terms of the contract, 18 of the Rafale planes will be sold ready to fly while the rest will be assembled at a state-run Indian facility
Vice Admiral John Miller said that a "robust" U.S. and international maritime presence was helping to minimise threats to oil-producing countries in the region.
In the absence of high oil prices, which have slumped since hitting their peak in June, defence equipment would be a useful source of hard currency for the Russian authorities
Veteran leftist Manolis Glezos, a Syriza member of the European Parliament attacked the failure to fulfil Syriza's campaign promises and said simply changing the deal's previously inflammatory wording would not soothe the public.