Colombian president hopes to bolster ties with China

BOGOTA – Colombian President is hoping to boost economic ties with China in his upcoming visit to Colombia’s second-largest trading partner beginning Tuesday.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua ahead of the May 8-12 trip, his first as president, Juan Manuel Santos said he hopes Colombia could expand cooperation with China in all fields and become an “important ally” of China.

He said he admires the economic achievements made by China since the country adopted the reform and opening-up policy in the late 1970s.

For Colombia, he said, China is a very important market that has huge consumption potential due to its big population.

Santos said he hopes his visit will help Colombia gain access to the huge Chinese market.

The Colombian president also expressed hope that his visit will attract more Chinese companies to his country once he reveals the numerous investment opportunities in Colombia.

“We have a lot of what China needs,” Santos said, naming energy, food production capacity, water and tropical forests.

Meanwhile, “China has a lot of what we need,” he said, citing investment capacity and technology.

“We complement each other a lot,” he said.

In 2011, trade between the two countries reached $8.2 billion, making China Colombia’s second-largest trading partner after the United States.

Santos also noted that the series of culture cooperative agreements signed between Colombia and China during the recent visit of Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, is another step forward in strengthening cultural exchanges between the two sides.

Also, Santos talked about Colombia’s economy, describing the country’s economic performance as “very good”. He said inflation is at a historic low.

He said the country’s economy grew by 6 percent last year, while the unemployment rate has decreased and more than 1.5 million jobs have been created since he took office in August 2010.

Santos also expressed concern over the world financial crisis that has affected Europe and the United States, pointing out that Colombia and China will benefit from a strengthened bilateral cooperation, which will help the global economic recovery.

He said he has high hopes for his upcoming visit, as “China … is a wonderful country with a great future.”

During his five-day visit, Santos will meet with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao and other top officials and business leaders.

Santos will be accompanied by several cabinet members, including Foreign Relations Minister Maria Angela Holguin. He will also visit Singapore.

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