China’s Xi on mis­sion in Panama

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD -

CHINA’S Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and his Pana­ma­nian coun­ter­part Juan Car­los Varela signed a string of co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments Mon­day as Beijing aims to ex­tend its po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic in­flu­ence in Latin Amer­ica.

Xi ar­rived in the Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­try late Sun­day, fresh from strik­ing a 90-day truce deal in the trade war with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump at the G20 sum­mit in Ar­gentina.

Xi and Varela signed a score of in­fra­struc­ture, tourism and devel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments as Panama be­came the first Latin Amer­i­can coun­try to part­ner with Beijing’s gi­ant multi-bil­lion dol­lar global in­vest­ment ini­tia­tive known as “Belt and Road.”

Xi’s visit comes af­ter Panama broke ties with Tai­wan last year and switched its al­le­giance to Beijing. Since Panama’s move, two other Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­tries – the Do­mini­can Repub­lic and El Salvador – have made the switch.

“Our bi­lat­eral re­la­tions have had a strong start af­ter only a year and a half,” Xi said.

Varela said Xi’s visit – and the in­vest­ment it brought – meant Panama would be­come “the gate­way of China to Latin Amer­ica.”

In a col­umn writ­ten for lo­cal news­pa­per Xi said he had “high ex­pec­ta­tions” for the visit, the first ever by a Chi­nese leader to the coun­try.

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