China expands Latin links, Hu sets visit

April 6, 2010 at 6:00 PM
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RIO DE JANEIRO, April 6 (UPI) -- Chinese President Hu Jintao will visit Brazil, Chile and Venezuela this month in a move seen by analysts as part of a wider Beijing initiative to expand economic, energy and military links in Latin America.

Hu will be attending this year's summit of the BRIC group, made up of Brazil, Russia, India and China, that will be looking into alternatives to the U.S. dollar, Western pre-eminence and issues of nuclear security.

At last year's BRIC summit in Russia the leaders of the four countries made clear their intention to pursue a multipolar world order.

Hu's visit comes soon after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed wide-ranging economic collaboration agreements in Venezuela with President Hugo Chavez. And later in the year Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will visit Iran to further cement bilateral ties and follow up on Iranian approaches to Latin American countries, including Brazil and Venezuela.

The multiple initiatives from China, Iran and Russia have led to calls for the Obama administration to do more to project a stronger U.S. presence in "America's back yard."

Hu's schedule in Brazil, Chile and Venezuela is packed with a series of agreements that will see increased Chinese collaboration in economic, energy, military and scientific fields.

Chinese government officials in Beijing described Hu's visit as an important part of China's strategy for closer ties with Latin American countries. Hu last visited Latin America in 2008, when he met with government leaders in Cuba, Costa Rica and Peru.

China has been developing agro-business, energy and mining projects in Latin America since it first began high-level contacts in the region in 2004.

Lately China has concentrated on securing energy deals to feed its expanding industrial base and finding new markets for its vast range of consumer goods, machinery and plants. Chinese-Venezuelan trade alone now amounts to about $10 billion, from $742 million in 2003.

China imports about 400,000 barrels a day of oil from Venezuela but has also boosted its export trade, including arms sales. The Chinese combat K-8 aircraft is the latest Chinese military equipment to go on the Venezuelan air force inventory. Venezuela has taken delivery of six out of 18 of the aircraft. China has also supplied support workshop for maintenance.

In Chile, Hu will offer Chinese expertise with reconstruction after the devastation caused by the 8.8 magnitude earthquake on Feb. 27. In Brazil the Chinese team has lined up a series of proposed deals that include several major energy collaboration projects. Brazil is also scouting for major investors for its deepwater oil exploration program.

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