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Aviation, railway top Premier Li’s agenda for Latin America

Zhao Yinan
Updated: May 14,2015 8:41 AM     China Daily

China will sign aircraft, currency and agricultural deals during Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Latin America next week.

In addition, work will start on a feasibility study of plans for a transcontinental railroad project involving China, Brazil and Peru that will link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Li will start his first trip to Latin America on May 17 and will visit Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Chile, said Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Chao. The tour is intended to restructure China’s resource-focused economic exchanges with the region, he added.

The Premier will address businesspeople from China and Brazil in Brasilia and attend an exhibition of Chinese equipment in Rio de Janeiro, Wang said.

Tong Daochi, assistant director-general of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, said China and Chile will sign currency swap and yuan settlement agreements and discuss upgrades to their decade-old Free Trade Agreement. A beef export deal will be finalized in Brazil, and aviation will be another focus area for Li in that country.

“We will discuss further purchases and cooperation with Brazil on aviation,” he added.

“During Premier Li’s visit to these four countries, we will discuss important issues like industrial cooperation, infrastructure, free trade zones, technical economic cooperation, training and financial support.”

He said the feasibility study of the Twin Ocean Railroad Connection project will not involve drawing up estimates of the cost. The Chinese-built, cross-Andes line will run from cities on the Pacific coast in Peru to Brazil’s Atlantic coast, according to deals that were signed during President Xi Jinping’s visit to the region in July.

It will enable shipments of Brazilian ore and soy to be sent from Peru to Asia, which has some of the world’s largest consumers of grain and raw materials. The route will extend for about 5,000 kilometers, including 2,000 km of existing railway. The initial investment in the historic undertaking-the largest railway project proposed by Chinese leaders during an overseas trip-is estimated at about $60 million.

Chen Fengying, director of the World Economy Institute at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Brazil’s underdeveloped logistics infrastructure has inflated commodity prices and put its exports of raw materials at a disadvantage.

Roads account for more than 60 percent of total transportation capacity in Brazil, while rail accounts for only 24 percent. A third of the country’s railroads were built 60 years ago and suffer from low efficiency, according to Xinhua News Agency.

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