Cuba and China to expand trade and cooperation - latest

Campaign News | Wednesday, 24 November 2004

Chinese President makes state visit to Havana

China forges stronger trade relations Cuba

HAVANA Novem,ber 23 - Chinese President Hu Jintao and trade leaders agreed to an array of business deals with Cuba on Tuesday as the nations worked to strengthen their economic ties.

By the time Hu flew out of Havana on Tuesday night, he had agreed to a $500 million investment in the island's key nickel industry and attended talks aimed at increasing Chinese involvement in Cuban tourism and telecommunications.

Hu, who came to Cuba on a personal invitation from President Fidel Castro, flew in from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Santiago, Chile. He also visited Argentina and Brazil on his first trip to Latin America since taking office in 2003.

Earlier Tuesday, Hu was accompanied by Defense Minister Raul Castro, the president's younger brother, at a forum of about 400 Cuban and Chinese business people negotiating new trade between the ideological allies.

``Cuba is one of China's largest commercial partners in Latin America," Hu told the gathering. ``We share common ideals allowing us to follow our own path of development whatever the international situation may be."

Relations between the two nations were tense during the Cold War, when the Caribbean island was strongly allied with the Soviet Union, but warmed after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and Cuba lost its preferential trade and aid deals with the Soviet bloc.

In a ceremony Tuesday, Castro bestowed the Jose Marti Honorary Order on Hu. He stood up from his wheelchair, for the first time publicly after shattering his kneecap in an accidental fall last month, while the Chinese and Cuban national anthems played. He leaned on a metal cane with an arm support.

``Socialism will definitively remain as the only real hope for peace and survival of our species," Castro said. ``That is precisely what the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China has demonstrated."

Castro ended his comments by saying Cuba had ``enormous admiration for the legendary and revolutionary China," a country that is now also Cuba's third-largest trading partner.

China accounts for 10 percent of the island's foreign trade, trailing Venezuela and Spain.

The presidents looked on Monday as ministers and business leaders signed 16 agreements for China to purchase nickel and invest in processing and exploration for the mineral.

Under the accords, starting next year Cuba will provide 4,400 tons of nickel annually to China.

The agreements also call for the $500 million Chinese investment in a new nickel plant in Moa, in the eastern region of Holguin, Cuba's Basic Industry Minister Yadira Garcia told reporters Tuesday.

China also allowed Cuba a 10-year extension to repay four interest-free loans provided between 1990 and 1994, during Cuba's severe post-Soviet economic crisis.

China will also donate $6 million to Cuban hospitals, as well as cloth for school uniforms worth about another $6 million.

China also agreed to finance 1 million television sets for the Cuban market.

There were also cooperation agreements in the fields of biotechnology, telecommunications and meteorology, as well as plans to teach Chinese to Cuban students.

HAVANA, Nov. 22 - Chinese President Hu Jintao and Fidel Castro, president of the Cuban Council of State, agreed here Monday to expand bilateral cooperation in political, economic and other areas.

Hu Jintao arrived here Monday afternoon for a state visit. He met with Castro soon after his arrival and they agreed to work together to expand mutually-beneficial cooperation.

China and Cuba established full diplomatic relations in 1960. Hu said in the meeting with Castro that China-Cuba relationship has withstood the test of time and the change of international situation.

"We have helped each other and treated each other with sincerity," Hu said. "We are friends and brothers. A better relationship between China and Cuba will serve not only interests of our two countries, but also world peace and common development."

Hu proposed that China and Cuba increase exchange of visits by leaders of the government, the parliament, political parties, and non-governmental institutions.

China and Cuba can also expand cooperation in areas of tourism, aquatic products and bio-technology, Hu said.

In addition, China and Cuba can strengthen cooperation in international arenas to safeguard the interests of the developing nations and world peace, said the Chinese president.

Two-way trade between China and Cuba has been about 400 millionUS dollars annually over the past three years. The trade volume reached 401 million dollars from January to September this year, up 36.7 percent.

China mainly imports sugar and nickel from Cuba and exports machinery and electronic products to Cuba.

Castro told Hu that he has paid great attention to China's development and been reading a lot about China lately. He said he was glad to see China's fast growth and the expansion of Cuba-China cooperation.

Castro said he agreed with Hu's proposals. He said Cuba hopes to purchase about one million more color TV sets from China as the 1.3 million sets Cuba previously imported from China were "very good" in quality.

Hu briefed Castro about China's socio-economic development and China's new development strategy characterized by the concept of human first and balanced and sustainable development.

Castro listened attentively and raised questions now and again.

Following their conversation, China and Cuba signed a number of agreements on their cooperation in plant quarantine, bio-technology, education and economy.

Cuba is the last leg of Hu's Latin America trip. Previously he visited Brazil, Argentina and Chile, where he attended the annual APEC leaders' meeting.

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