China President Xi Jinping wound down a eight-day tour of Latin America and the Caribbean vowing to boost investment and cooperation with Cuba as President Raul Castro struggles to reverse slowing economic growth.
Cuban and Chinese officials signed 29 accords ranging from financing for biopesticide plants and the port of Santiago to agreements over tobacco and nickel exports, oil exploration and golf course development, state news agency Granma reported on its website today.
“China is leading the charge to begin deepening our comprehensive reforms, while Cuba is in the process of updating its economic model,” Xi said at an event with Castro, 83. “We are full of confidence over the future development of relations between our country and Cuba.”
Xi brought more than $15 billion in trade and investment agreements to Latin America and the Caribbean at a time when the region’s biggest economies are seeing growth slow. China pledged more than $8.6 billion during Xi’s visit to Brazil, where he joined leaders from the BRICS political bloc in creating a $50 billion development bank.
In Argentina, Xi and President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner signed agreements creating an $11 billion currency swap mechanism and $7.5 billion for upgrades to a key rail line, hydroelectric plant developments and enhanced nuclear cooperation. He also agreed to a joint auto venture with Venezuela.
The agreements with China provide an additional lifeline to Cuba after Castro expressed frustration with the country’s economic performance last month. Cuba’s economy expanded 0.6 percent in the first half and is forecast by the government to grow 1.4 percent this year, less than forecast, Economy and Planning Minister Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez said.
Cuban state media didn’t divulge many details of the accords signed yesterday. One agreement calls for China National Petroleum Corp. to aid in the search for offshore oil fields as well as boost production at known fields. Others provide for the export of nickel for five years, upgrades to Cuba’s telecommunications infrastructure and the development of a golf course near Havana.