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Venezuela, China boost economic ties

China President Hu Jintao with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Caracas (AFP) Feb 17, 2009
Venezuela and China agreed to boost economic relations Tuesday, as Vice President Xi Jinping began a two-day visit to the country and Beijing continued to expand its presence in Latin America.

Xi and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez agreed to establish a joint business committee to foster contacts between business leaders in both nations and increase ties in the service, trade and investment sectors.

"I ask you to unleash all your creativity to lead this business committee to a map full of achievements," Chavez told a meeting of Venezuelan and Chinese business leaders.

"We're sure that through our joint effort the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Venezuela will know a brighter future," Xi said.

The Chinese leader said China and Venezuela were in gear to strengthen political relations and cooperation in the housing, transport, energy, electricity, trade and financial sectors.

The joint business committee will draw up proposals on how to improve bilateral relations that will be taken up at a meeting of Chinese and Venezuelan experts in Caracas in September.

The foreign ministry said other agreements Xi will sign during his stay here include "joint ventures with Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) for the exploration, exploitation, processing, refining and transportation of crude oil."

Xi's arrival in Venezuela coincides with the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Caracas and Beijing.

Historically cordial, these relations have strengthened since 2001, after both nations "established a strategic partnership for joint development," said Zhang Tuo, China's Ambassador to Caracas.

This rapprochement has helped increase bilateral trade, which peaked at nearly 10 billion dollars in 2008, according to Zhang.

Last year, Venezuela launched its first geostationary satellite thanks to cooperation with China.

The Asian giant currently imports about 364,000 barrels of crude oil per day from OPEC member Venezuela, a figure expected to rise to 500,000 barrels in late 2009.

The two countries have also expanded their military ties. Caracas recently purchased a fleet of 18 K-8 reconnaissance and training aircraft from Beijing.

Venezuela is Xi's latest stop in Latin America after visits to Mexico and Colombia. From Venezuela Xi will travel to Brazil.

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Ireland scrambles over Russian navy oil spill
Dublin (AFP) Feb 17, 2009
Irish aircraft monitoring an oil spill believed to come from a Russian navy refuelling accident off Ireland's south coast have recorded 522 tonnes of fuel spreading across the sea, officials said Tuesday.

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