Photo: China and Argentina relations
Argentina’s planning minister sought Thursday to attract Chinese interest in his country’s ambitious energy program, which includes plans to build a large hydroelectric complex in 2013 and two nuclear reactors.
In his first day in Beijing, Julio de Vido tried to woo investors for a hydro project in the southern province of Santa Cruz that will include construction of the Nestor Kirchner and Gobernador Jorge Cepernic dams.
Argentina, which is shifting its focus to emerging economies amid the U.S. economy’s struggles and the European sovereign-debt crisis, sent De Vido on a roadshow to Brazil, China and Russia to promote the project face-to-face.
“Trade between Argentina and China has grown by nearly 500 percent in eight years. It’s a clear sign of the (policy decisions) of each country. We have a lot of expectations,” the minister told a packed conference hall.
De Vido has been well received in Beijing, with a sizable number of investors on hand for his presentation and 10 meetings arranged, although some in attendance expressed frustration with certain technical aspects.
“Argentina is a bit stingy with time. It’s tough for them to only give us until Dec. 12 to present ourselves and fulfill all the legal requirements,” Wang Yifu, adviser to the president of the Sinohydro firm, said, though adding that the company remained interested.
Nuclear power also is on the minister’s agenda in Beijing.
On Friday, De Vido will attempt to form a working group consisting of one or more Chinese partners interested in a project to build nuclear power reactors in Argentina.
De Vido’s roadshow follows initial talks on energy partnerships that began during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to the Latin American nation in June.
Negotiations also are ongoing on potential Chinese participation in Argentina’s oil sector.
Earlier this year, Argentina seized a 51 percent stake in oil company YPF from Spain’s Repsol, a move that several analysts say could have been motivated by a plan to bring a Chinese partner on board in Repsol’s place.
YPF boss Miguel Galuccio was scheduled to visit China before the end of this month, but some experts say the trip may have been delayed because of the upcoming political transition in Beijing or due to snags in the talks.
Argentina’s plans for the two dams in Santa Cruz are a response to growing domestic electricity demand. They will have a roughly $5 billion price tag and are to be built over a period of 66 months starting next year.
De Vido stressed the importance of the project, which has already attracted the interest of Brazilian and Chinese firms.
The minister’s visit shows that Argentina is placing no limits on its relationship with China, which has gone from being the workbench of the world to the globe’s banker amid the economic woes in Europe and the United States.