Argentina bets on bilateral boost for exports to China

Updated: 2015-04-27 04:45

By Li Wenfang in Guangzhou(China Daily USA)

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Argentina bets on bilateral boost for exports to China

Julio C Ferrari Freyre, consul general of Argentina in Guangzhou. [Photo by Zou Zhongpin / China Daily]

China can expect to see an influx of products from Argentina and two-way investment as the countries enhance bilateral economic exchanges, according to a senior diplomat.

Julio C. Ferrari Freyre, Argentina's consul general in Guangzhou, said his country already exports a wide range of products to China, such as soybean oil, leather, wine, beef, pharmaceuticals, diesel motors and X-ray film.

"A next natural step will be dairy products," he said, as the demand among Chinese consumers is high. "We're also working on the opening-up of China's fruit market."

The market was opened to imported apples and pears in December, and Ferrari Freyre said cherries and grapes are expected to be next, adding that Argentina is the world's No 1 lemon exporter.

"The demand is there. Because food is key to Argentina's economy, we are focusing on these areas," he said. Although his country is far away, he said the well-protected environment makes Argentine food products competitive.

China is Argentina's second-largest trading partner after Brazil. Bilateral trade stood at $15.8 billion last year, including $5 billion in exports to China, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses of Argentina.

Chinese exports to Argentina include electronic devices, such as telephones, computers and machinery. Several Chinese IT companies, including Huawei, Lenovo and ZTE, as well as home appliance maker Midea and heavy machinery manufacturer Guangxi Liugong have invested in factories in Argentina. A number are located in southern Tierra del Fuego, which offers tax incentives.

Nexus America in Guangzhou, which import beef and wine from Argentina, expects its business to double this year, said Manager Ramiro Gomez Lopez.

"We see that the Chinese demand for foreign food and beverages is increasing. The Chinese population has more income than before and the middle class is expanding. Therefore the purchasing power is higher. Chinese like to try things from outside as well.

"We plan to increase the production of wine and beef together with our partner companies, and to accelerate the export processes by upgrading our company's operational technologies."

Ferrari Freyre said he expects more Chinese investment to flow into Argentina, with several companies interested in establishing plants to process cooking oil, diary products, fruit, vegetables and beef. He said the biggest draws are a highly educated and trained workforce, a vast amount of space, quality raw materials, and access to the Southern Common Market.

To promote investment, the government of Guangdong province announced plans to build an industrial park in Zhuhai for investment from Latin America.

Agricultural machinery manufacturing, financial services, logistics and biotechnology are potential areas for cooperation, the consult general said, adding that of the five Nobel prizes won by Argentine nationals, three were for medicine.

Biogenesis Bago from Argentina and Shanghai Hile Bio-Pharmaceuticals have invested in a joint venture in northern Shaanxi province to produce vaccines for foot and mouth disease.

During a visit by Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to China in February, the two countries signed 15 agreements, covering areas such as finance, nuclear energy, space technology, telecommunications and culture.

On the free trade zones soon to be launched in Fujian and Guangdong provinces, Ferrari Freyre said opportunities lies in creating facilities to process agricultural, pharmaceutical and chemical products to be exported to Southeast Asian countries.

Tourism is another sector experiencing growth. He said his consulate issued 1,103 visas to Chinese tourists last year, mostly to those from Guangdong.

Many people are interested in visiting multiple times, he said, citing a man in Guangzhou who has traveled to southern Argentina for lake fishing every year for the past four years, staying for about 20 days each time.

The consulate has organized several seminars to promote the country's hospitality industry, including a roadshow for tourism in South America held in Guangzhou, and is now in talks with the government of Fuqing, in Fujian, to build a cultural center.

Fujian is home to about two-thirds of the 3,000 Argentine citizens living in China. Many Chinese-Argentine parents send their children to Fujian, where they are cared for by grandparents and attend primary school. Ferrari Freyre said he hoped such a center would provide Argentine culture and Spanish language training to those children.

He said the consulate will also introduce more artists, dancers and musicians to southern China audiences by including them in events to mark occasions such as National Day.

Ferrari Freyre also said he hopes there will be Chinese editions of a number of Argentine literary works, such as those by Julio Cortazar, Jorge Luis Borges and Ernesto Sabato. Borges' works are sold out, and the consulate wants to have them reprinted and distributed in libraries and schools.

Ren Yue contributed to this story.