Latin American countries eye exports with added value, expert says
Premier Wen Jiabao on Sunday expressed willingness to expand direct trade in agricultural and livestock products with Argentina, one of the top agricultural producers in South America.
Wen was speaking while visiting a farm close to the capital, saying the two countries' agricultural industries are highly complementary as Argentina has rich resources and advanced technologies while China enjoys huge market potential.
"China is ready to expand direct agricultural trade with Argentina and enhance cooperation in the investment, infrastructure and technology sectors," Wen said during a meeting with about 50 Argentine agricultural officials and businesspeople.
Statistics showed that agricultural trade reached $5.5 billion last year, accounting for one-third of bilateral trade volume. Most were exports from Argentina to China.
Ignacio Rosner, director of El Tejar, an agricultural and livestock company in Buenos Aires, said there will be more trade in this sector in the future because Argentina has the potential to boost exports to China.
However, he noted that most of the bilateral agricultural trade is re-export, which greatly increases the cost of the trade.
He said Argentina needs foreign investment for further development of its agricultural industry and hopes to see exports to China with more added value.
"Agriculture is a primary aspect of economic and trade cooperation between Latin American countries and China," said Zhou Zhiwei, an expert on Brazilian studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
He said the export of agricultural products has contributed a lot to the economic development of Latin American nations, like Argentina, which need to defend their balance of international payments.
Meanwhile, he noted that those countries are eager to change the structure of their export and import products.
"Countries like Brazil, Argentina and Chile hope to reduce their reliance on China's import of manufactured goods and at the same time export more processed products of their own to China," Zhou said, noting concerns have been growing over trade frictions between China and Argentina in recent years.
According to Argentine Agriculture Minister Norberto Yauhar, the first agriculture ministers meeting between China and Latin American countries will be held in the coming few months, which might make it possible to discuss the establishment of relevant grain reserves in the continent.
Reports quoted Rogelio Ponton, adviser to the Rosario Board of Trade, as saying China is Argentina's second-largest trade partner, mainly dealing in agricultural products. Argentina is the world's No 1 exporter of flour and soy oil, No 3 soy bean exporter and No 2 corn exporter.
Wen is scheduled to meet Argentine President Cristina Fernandez on Monday and then fly to Chile, the last stop of his multi-nation tour in South America.