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Major Latin American nation joins China’s mega-project

Argentina and China have signed a memorandum of understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing’s multibillion-dollar global infrastructure development project. The document was part of a package of cooperation agreements signed on Sunday in Beijing during a visit by Argentine President Alberto Fernandez to meet China’s President Xi Jinping.

Buenos Aires is the 21st nation in Latin America to formally join the China-led initiative, and the first to do so on the list of the top-three regional economies, which also includes Brazil and Mexico.

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The move was long expected, considering the extensive economic ties between the two nations. China overtook Brazil as Argentina’s biggest trading partner in 2020, amid a drop in regional trade due to the Covid-19 pandemic. China is not only a supplier of various goods to Argentina, but also a major market for its agriculture sector, with soybeans and beef being its biggest exports.

The memorandum sets out a roadmap for China and Argentina to further develop their trade and other forms of cooperation. The Argentine government said Beijing agreed to invest at least $14 billion in infrastructure projects in the country, with a second tranche of $9.7 billion in the pipeline.

Washington perceives the Belt and Road Initiative, which was launched by Xi in 2013, as a serious challenge to its interests in Latin America. The US has been sending diplomats to friendly nations to advise them against taking Beijing’s money.

The Biden administration touts the G7-led Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative as an alternative vehicle for countries to rebound from Covid-19 slowdown in “a values-driven, high-standard, and transparent infrastructure partnership” with the West.

Last month, Nicaragua joined the Chinese mega-project, after switching its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

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