Cuba, China sign oil production contract

Campaign News | Monday, 31 January 2005

Joint venture to explore for deposits

Havana 31 Jan. -Cuba signed a production contract with China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., or SINOPEC, to work in areas around the island believed to contain oil deposits, the government announced Monday.

The agreement was reached in an early Sunday meeting attended by Li Lianfu, China's ambassador to Cuba; Cuba's Basic Industry Minister Yadira Garcia; and Minister of Government Ricardo Cabrisas, according to an official note in Granma, the Communist Party daily newspaper.

"The contract confirms ascending political and commercial relations between the two countries," the front-page note said.

It did not say what the contract was worth.

The two communist nations forged a stronger economic partnership in November during a two-day visit to Cuba by Chinese President Hu Jintao in which he agreed to multimillion-dollar investment in the island's key nickel industry and increased Chinese involvement in Cuban tourism and telecommunications.

Cuba currently produces 75,000 barrels of oil daily, about half of what it needs. It imports much of the rest on favorable terms from political ally Venezuela.

Cuba has invited several foreign petroleum companies to join its efforts to find oil in the Gulf of Mexico. In late December, Cuban President Fidel Castro announced the discovery of a crude oil deposit off the coast of Santa Cruz del Norte, east of Havana, containing up to 100 million barrels.

He said production there could begin during 2006.

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