For the first time in 27 years, Wen Jiabao, is visiting Argentina to discuss the importation of corn into China. From Bloomberg Businessweek:
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will spend three days in Argentina from tomorrow as part of a Latin American tour that will reap several agriculture deals, Vice Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng said June 18, without elaborating.
For Argentine producers, which include George Soros-backed Adecoagro SA (AGRO) (AGRO), Wen’s visit is evidence that initial approvals to export genetically-modified corn will be ratified, said Martin Fraguio, head of growers’ association Maizar. Argentina, the second-largest exporter, would give China an alternative to the U.S. as the Asian nation imports a record 7 million metric tons that at today’s price would be worth about $1.5 billion.
China became a net corn importer in 2009 as its domestic crop failed to keep up with growth in livestock feed demand and a corn-processing industry that makes everything from starch used in aspirins to high fructose corn syrup used to sweeten Coca Cola. Slowing economic growth probably won’t curb corn imports as rising incomes boost demand for beef and pork.
China aims to be self-sufficient in grains to shield itself from the risk of natural disasters in other growing regions, Agriculture Minister Han Changfu wrote in a May 26 article published on the website of the People’s Daily. Han will accompany Wen on the Buenos Aires trip.
Aside from deals on corn, Xinhua reports that Wen’s visit to Buenos Aires will also focus on diplomatic ties:
In a written speech released upon his arrival, Wen said the two countries have seen frequent high-level exchange visits, deepening political mutual trust, and fruitful cooperation in such sectors as economy, trade, culture, education, science and technology since the establishment of diplomatic ties 40 years ago.
The two countries have also enjoyed good coordination on international and regional issues, he said, adding that China is willing to work with Argentina to promote mutually beneficial cooperation.
The Chinese premier said he expects to exchange views with the Argentine leaders on bilateral ties as well as on international and regional issues of common concern.
Wen’s first stop on this regional tour was Uruguay, and this was his first visit to the country since they had established diplomatic ties in 1988. AFP adds:
In a statement, Wen said that he and his counterparts would discuss international and regional issues of mutual interest.
A Uruguay foreign ministry source told AFP there was strong government interest in having Chinese investors fund the building of a deepwater port in the southeast department of Rocha.
China is Uruguay’s second-largest trading partner after Brazil.
Wen, whose stay wraps up Saturday, is also scheduled to visit Chile and Argentina on his trip to the region.
According to China Daily, during his visit, Wen claimed that China sees the South American market as an important figure:
Facing the global financial crisis and other complex situations, China and Uruguay have enhanced their common interests and consensus, the premier said, adding that “China is willing to work with the Uruguayan side to enhance high-level contacts and open up broad prospects for China-Uruguay relations to better serve the interests of the two peoples.”
China attaches importance to the role of the South American Common Market (Mercosur) and will work with the regional trade organization to enhance cooperation, he said.
Mujica hailed the development of bilateral ties in recent years, saying his country will expand mutually beneficial cooperation with China, enhance exchanges in culture and education sectors, consolidate coordination on international affairs and promote cooperation between the Mercosur and China.
After their talks, the two states inked five cooperation agreements on environmental protection, economic and technology cooperation, quality monitoring and inspection, and telecommunication.