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Chongqing event boosts Sino-LAC trade ties

By DENG RUI and TAN YINGZI in Chongqing | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-11-18 12:16
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Fernando Lugris (second from left), Uruguay's ambassador to China, promotes Uruguayan wines via social platforms on the sidelines of a trade event in Chongqing. [Photo by Tan Yingzi/China Daily]

The Tibet Summit Industry Co Ltd signed a $700-million investment agreement with Argentina's Salta province on Tuesday during the 14th China-Latin America and the Caribbean (China-LAC) Business Summit held in Chongqing.

The mining company, which has already gained a foothold in Central Asia, will launch a lithium carbonate mining project in the Argentine province next year. It will have an annual capacity of 50,000 tons of lithium carbonate products.

As China and the LAC regions are forging closer economic exchanges, more Chinese companies like Tibet Summit are investing across the Pacific. The event, a sub-summit of the China-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Forum, was first launched in 2007 as a platform for promoting economic, social and trade cooperation.

It was sponsored by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, the Chongqing municipal government, and the People's Bank of China, the central bank. Officials, business leaders and experts in various fields from China and LAC countries attended the two-day event.

Seven other agreements between China and LAC countries were also signed during the signing ceremony of the event, covering animal husbandry, automobiles and medical devices, with deals exceeding $400 million.

Lithium carbonate is a vital ingredient used in electric vehicle batteries. The recent surge of electric vehicle sales in the world, especially in China, has caused spot prices for lithium carbonate in China to soar 170 percent year-on-year to 142,000 yuan ($22,000) a ton this year, their highest since April 2018, a Reuters report said.

It could be one of the largest lithium carbonate projects in the world when completed, Zhang Jieyuan, vice-president of Tibet Summit, told China Daily at the signing ceremony.

"The project is very important for Salta. It will provide jobs for the local people and neighboring communities," Salta Governor Gustavo Adolfo Ruberto Saenz said in a video speech at the signing ceremony.

"China and the LAC regions are highly complementary in economy and the cooperation potential is huge," said Zhang. "We are very optimistic about the new energy sector, and I look forward to rosy prospects for the Belt and Road Initiative, because people's longing for a better life is all the same."

As a top global supplier of high-quality meat, soybeans, dairy products, rice, and wine among others, Uruguay has also been actively promoting trade ties with China in recent years. In 2019, Uruguay became the first Latin America country to establish a consulate in Chongqing.

"The LAC and China have witnessed a steep increase in trade over the past 20 years," said Fernando Lugris, Uruguay's ambassador to China.

Since 2013, Uruguay's exports to China have been accounting for a big part of its total, Lugris said. The ambassador even joined a local food company to promote Uruguayan food on a social media platform on the sidelines of the event.

"Uruguay's red wine was first introduced to our domestic market in 2019 by our company," said Zeng Heng, representative of the Chongqing Astronautic Bashan Motorcycle Manufacturing Co. The Chongqing-based company has a more than 95 percent share of Uruguay's motorcycle parts market.

In 2019, the company introduced three Uruguayan wineries to the Chinese market at the invitation of the local government at an exhibition fair promoting local wineries. Zeng said the quality of the Uruguayan wine is high, pricing at about 300 to 400 yuan. And the wines are usually seen on shelves in high-end restaurants and bars.

"Besides those from Argentina, Spain or other countries, we have seen more consumers picking up our wines as well," said 33-year-old Eduardo Rivero, the representative of Montes Toscanini winery in Uruguay, who attended the product exhibition at the summit.

The winery has logged an 8 to 10 percent annual sales growth in the Chinese market since the company started the business.

China's bilateral trade with the LAC reached $331.88 billion in the first three quarters, up 45.5 percent year-on-year, Gao Yan, chair of the CCPIT, said at the summit.

"Latin America is also our second largest investment destination, with more than 2,700 Chinese enterprises established in Latin America. It can be said that the economic and trade cooperation between China and LAC countries is creating a new route across the Pacific," Gao said.

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