Ambassador: Relations with Beijing 'a top priority'

Updated: 2014-07-19 06:47

By Zhao Shengnan (China Daily)

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When Argentina hosted the 1978 World Cup, Chinese TV viewers got their first taste of live action from the event, but their knowledge of the country was then limited, as it had been only six years since diplomatic ties were established.

According to the country's ambassador to China, the relationship has developed faster than a rush to the goal by the victorious Argentine team of 1978.

The ties are "excellent" and will be lifted to a higher level by the recent historic visit of President Xi Jinping, Argentine ambassador Gustavo A. Martino said.

"To us, relations with China are a top priority," Martino told China Daily ahead of Xi's visit to the South American country, which started on Friday. It was Xi's first visit to Argentina since taking office last year.

Xi was to meet with his Argentine counterpart, Cristina Fernandez, and witness the signing of a series of deals in such sectors as trade, agriculture, finance and infrastructure.

Coinciding with the visit, a 200-strong delegation from China's private sector also was in Argentina, attending a business forum, Martino said.

The ambassador made no secret of the fact that Buenos Aires is trying to reverse a trade deficit with China, "a crucial partner" of the country.

Ambassador: Relations with Beijing 'a top priority'

China is Argentina's second-largest trading partner, with bilateral trade hitting $16.86 billion in 2013, up from $14.5 billion in 2012, when Argentina had a trade deficit of $4.07 billion.

Martino said both governments are trying to improve the size of Argentina's exports and increase the value of products sold to China, such as processed food.

Booming trade, however, has resulted in a slew of anti-dumping probes of Chinese products launched by Argentina. But the ambassador was quick to point out that isolated problems are inevitable against the backdrop of a trade boom, and he stressed that both countries have expressed a willingness to tackle any problems.

Martino extended a warm welcome to Chinese investors and highlighted the fact that China has been a leading foreign investor in Argentina's open market.

"China is going to play an increasingly important role as an investor in Argentina and in Latin America," he said. "Some companies have established business platforms in Argentina to expand their business throughout Latin America."

An avid soccer fan, Martino also noted Chinese people's enthusiasm for Argentine soccer. And he mentioned their preference for visiting the country. He said Argentina will promote more tourism from China, partly through packages with other Latin American countries, and facilitate visa procedures for Chinese tourists.

"By the end of next year, we will try to double last year's number of tourists, with a goal of about 50,000, which I think is reasonable," he said.

About 25,000 Chinese travelers toured Argentina in 2013, a fivefold increase from a decade ago.

(China Daily 07/19/2014 page3)