Argentina’s government has confirmed that the country has signed up to China’s sweeping Belt and Road initiative, paving the way for investments worth more than US$23 billion.
The deal is expected to be finalised in the next few hours during a closely watched bilateral meeting between President Alberto Fernández and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, as part of the Argentine leader's three-day visit to Beijing. A memorandum of understanding committing both nations to the deal has already been signed.
The news, confirmed by the Xinhua news agency and government spokespersons to the La Nación daily in the early hours of Sunday morning, will see the two nations “sign different agreements that guarantee financing for investments and works for more than US$23.7 billion, generating a new milestone in the bilateral relationship that in the last 15 years has expanded and strengthened notably."
Xi launched BRI in 2013, aiming to harness China's strengths in financing and infrastructure construction to "build a broad community of shared interests" throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America.
More than 140 nations worldwide have signed up to the programme, which promotes Chinese trade and investment and allows Beijing to access new markets and expand its global influence with financing streams and proprietary technology such as 5G telecommunications.
According to China’s Commerce Ministry, Chinese firms have to date invested more than US$20 billion via the initiative.
Argentina’s Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero and He Lifeng, Chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, signed a memorandum of understanding confirming the deal between the nations, Xinhua reported.
According to Cafiero, the objective of working with China is to "substantially increase the local works financed through the jointly agreed plans. Always with the same objective: to strengthen the Argentine economy and provide jobs."
Argentina’s government hopes the deal will allow it to obtain vital funds it believes will assist the nation’s economic recovery. Government sources described the deal as “a new milestone in the bilateral relationship, which in the last 15 years has expanded and strengthened considerably," in comments reported by the Noticias Argentinas news agency.
According to reports, under the terms of the agreement, Chinese financing will be available to Argentina in two tranches of US$14 billion and US$9.7 billion, with Argentina needing to sign up to Belt and Road in order to access it.
Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, said that Xi had called for the two nations to implement existing hydropower and railway projects and deepen cooperation in trade, industry, infrastructure, investment and anti-epidemic efforts in his meeting with Fernández.
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The Argentine leader expressed willingness to step up work with China on vaccine production and in other areas, Xinhua reported on Sunday morning.
A host of other documents were also signed for joint cooperation on areas include climate change, the digital economy, space, technology, education, agriculture, public media and nuclear energy, according to reports.