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.
Volatility eased as traders focused on the world economy and corporate earnings after a week dominated by the dramatic spike in tensions over North Korea, which triggered a global sell-off before prices bounced back Monday.
Investors greeted the more conciliatory tone after US stocks dropped three days in a row last week on President Donald Trump's vow of "fire and fury" if North Korea continued to pursue its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
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In its monthly report on the global oil market, the International Energy Agency said, however, that it believes the supply glut is easing, partly because demand is growing faster.
US stocks have been in retreat since President Donald Trump Tuesday issued a fiery warning to North Korea to halt its nuclear program.
The move by one of Japan's best-known firms greatly reduces the chance of an embarrassing delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE).
London's benchmark FTSE 100 index weakened by 0.5 percent to 7,503.39 points.
The approval by the European Commission comes just over two months after the European Central Bank -- which took on the role of the eurozone's banking supervisor in 2014 -- allowed the sale to go ahead for a symbolic fee of one euro.
BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total have all published results in recent days, showing they pocketed $23 billion in net profit in the first half fo the year.
Higher cereal, sugar and dairy prices pushed food price index by 10.2 percent annually in July
HSBC was also a big riser, gaining three percent at £7.65 ($10, 8.5 euros) in late morning trade after the British banking giant announced a share buyback plan alongside a rise in first-half profits.
Both main crude contracts made strong gains, with WTI testing $50 a barrel for the first time since late May and Brent heading towards $53, while mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto saw their share price rise as commodities strengthened.