President Hu Jintao’s Latin American Visit Reinforces Trade Links

China is already a substantial importer of Peru’s mineral wealth, for which there is a growing demand in Asian countries. Peru is recorded as being the world’s top silver producer in 2007, as well as producing significant quantities of copper and zinc. President Hu emphasized that China and Peru complement one another in the mining industry and he sees enormous potential for cooperation in this industry sector.

The announcements and promises made in Peru echoed those made earlier in the week when President Hu visited Cuba and Costa Rica. In Cuba he committed millions of dollars in aid to the country, along with promises of forging closer trade ties for the future. Prior to Cuba, President Hu visited Costa Rica, where he initiated talks on a free trade agreement with Costa Rican authorities and entered into agreements which include China’s assistance in modernizing Costa Rica’s state-owned oil refinery.

With the current global financial crisis uppermost in the minds of world leaders, while giving assurances that the essential elements of China’s economy remain strong, President Hu called for China and Latin America to cooperate fully in reshaping global finance regulations. China has long recognized, and promoted, the need for developing nations to have greater representation on world economic bodies, such as the International Monetary Fund, in order to ensure that the interests of these countries are protected.

President Hu’s travels highlight China’s increasing influence in the Latin American region, which has for some time been considered to be stronghold of Taiwan, Beijing’s arch rival. As China’s post-cold war diplomatic and economic power increases, it has been steadily winning over Taiwan’s allies, with Costa Rica being the first Central American country to sever its ties with Taiwan in favor of China in 2007. A report in China’s Xinhau news agency disclosed that China’s exports to Latin America grew to a figure of US$111.5 billion in the first nine months of 2008, representing an increase of 52 percent. Authorities are confident that this is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg, and there is tremendous potential for further increase.