HAVANA – Cuba and China signed in Havana 10 economic accords and memorandums of agreement in the areas of finance, oil, communications, information technology and other technical fields, in a move to strengthen bilateral relations.
The agreements were signed in the presence of Cuban head of state Raul Castro and visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping.
Under one of the accords, Cuba and China will expand cooperation in the oil sector through their respective state-owned companies, CUPET and the China National Petroleum Corporation.
China is one of the countries negotiating with the island to establish new oil-exploration contracts in Cuban waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The two governments have signed memorandums for the expansion of the oil refinery in the southeastern Cuban city of Cienfuegos and the development of a natural-gas project in that complex.
In matters of economic cooperation, China will give Cuba a grant and a zero-interest line of credit, though neither amount has yet been specified.
Loans for modernizing the island’s health sector, for laboratory equipment and for the restoration of hydraulic networks are other areas in which China has agreed to collaborate with Cuba.
Closer cooperation between Cuba and China comes at a time when the Communist-ruled island is in a process of “updating” its inefficient economic model in an attempt to overcome a crisis that has dragged on for decades.
Before the signing of these accords, Raul Castro met Sunday with Xi.
Upon his arrival on island Saturday, Xi – considered the favorite to succeed current President Hu Jintao – announced that the purpose of the visit is to “widen agreements, increase friendship and deepen cooperation in order to procure development together.”
Cuba is the first stop on Xi’s Latin American tour, during which he will also visit Uruguay and Chile, with the stated goal of boosting China’s economic relations with the region.
China is Cuba’s second-largest trade partner after Venezuela, and in 2010 bilateral trade increased to $1.8 billion.
Trade between China and Latin America jumped from $10 billion in 2000 to $100 billion in 2007, and has enjoyed year-on-year growth of more than 35 percent. EFE