Peru’s trade minister on Tuesday defended China as a good trade partner, after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Latin American countries against excessive reliance on economic ties with the Asian powerhouse.
Peru’s 2010 trade liberalization deal with China had allowed the Andean nation of about 30 million people to post a US$2.74 billion trade surplus with Beijing last year, Peruvian Minister of Foreign Commerce and Tourism Eduardo Ferreyros said.
“China is a good trade partner,” Ferreyros told foreign media as Tillerson met with Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in Lima, a stop on Tillerson’s five-nation Latin American tour. “We’re happy with the results of the trade agreement.”
The remarks were the Peruvian government’s first signal since Tillerson’s warning that it does not share Washington’s concerns about growing Chinese influence in the region.
Before starting his trip to Latin America on Friday last week, Tillerson suggested that China could become a new imperial power in the region and accused it of deploying unfair trade practices.
“I appreciate advice, no matter where it comes from, but we’re careful with all of our trade relations,” Ferreyros said, when asked about Tillerson’s remarks.
Ferreyros also praised Peru’s trade relationship with Washington, despite a trade deficit with the US.
“I’m not afraid of trade deficits,” Ferreyros said.
Since China first overtook the US as Peru’s biggest trade partner in 2011, thanks mostly to its appetite for Peru’s metals exports, bilateral trade has surged and diplomatic ties have tightened.
Kuczynski made a point of visiting China before any other nation on his first official trip abroad as president in 2016.
Under former US president Barack Obama, Washington had hoped to counter China’s rise in the Asia-Pacific region, which includes large parts of Latin America, with the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.
While US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the TPP upon taking office, the 11 remaining signatories, including Peru and Japan, have struck a similar deal that they plan to sign without the US next month.
Tillerson, who left Peru for Colombia on Tuesday, said on Monday that Trump was open to evaluating the benefits of the US joining the so-called TPP-11 pact, which Ferreyros called “a good sign.”
All countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including China, were welcome to join TPP-11, Ferreyros said.
“But the deal has closed and countries that want to join obviously can’t renegotiate the whole agreement,” he added.
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