Sun, Dec 14, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Chinese premier talks trade in Mexico, Africa

AP , MEXICO CITY AND ADDIS ABABA

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) wrapped up a tour of North America with an overnight stay in Mexico, a country with mixed feelings about China's rising economic star.

He begins a two-day visit to Ethiopia today to meet with African leaders and boost trade and strategic ties between China and the world's poorest continent.

Wen was scheduled yesterday to visit the headquarters of Mexico's state-owned oil company, Pemex, and meet with business contacts before leaving the country.

Chinese firms have succeeded in winning contracts to do work for Pemex, but China's was the only bid the company rejected recently in tendering six blocks of gas reserves. The bid was rejected on technical grounds.

Wen received a red-carpet welcome when he touched down Friday at Mexico City's international airport following a three-day visit to Canada.

He and Mexican President Vicente Fox signed an agreement on Friday to create a commission to increase cooperation between China and Mexico, and the two leaders agreed at a press conference to cooperate on combating contraband.

Mexico -- a direct competitor with China in low-wage manufacturing -- has a lot at stake as China's economy expands.

Almost every Mexican industry -- from traditional handicrafts to assembly-for-export plants -- has complained about an influx of low-priced Chinese goods and jobs lost to lower wages in China.

Addressing the senate, Wen called China and Mexico partners that "are not in any way rivals or competitors."

Trade between China and Africa totaled nearly US$9 billion through the first half of the year, and although it has increased six-fold since 1990, it still remains a mere fraction of China's trade with the US.

Chinese officials in Addis Ababa say the African stop on Wen's 10-day tour is a "logical extension" of Chinese foreign policy under which China is seeking partnerships with countries that may have misgivings about US dominance in world affairs.

In return, many African countries see China as a voice for developing nations on the UN Security Council.

But some African governments feel Chinese markets remain off-limits to them.

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