09/13/2005, 00.00
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Hu Jintao out to conquer Mexico

The Chinese economy is a "key market" which brings benefits for all, says Hu Jintao. There are agreements on minerals, telecommunications, agriculture. Not even one word about human rights is mentioned in the meetings.

Mexico City (Asianews/agencies) – Chinese President Hu Jintao, on a two-day visit to Mexico, said today that China's growth as an economic power made it a "key market" for export and not a threat to traditional trade between Mexico and the United States, as it is often perceived to be.

Hu said "China in rapid expansion" is ready to consume Mexican goods, from Tequila to telecommunication services. "The door of the Chinese economy is open to Mexico," he said in a speech to the Senate.

In reality, the South American country is highly apprehensive of competition posed by cheaply priced Chinese-made products which have invaded the market of the United States. Nearly 90% of Mexican exports go to the US. Hu emphasised that China was ready to assume the role of chief buyer of Mexican products. "Many Mexican products, like computers, electronics, telecommunications, tequila and Corona beer have entered China's market and have been welcomed by its consumers," he said reassuringly. Mexican president Vicente Fox told the Senate that agreement had been reached with Beijing to reduce Mexico's annual 15 billion US dollar trade deficit with China.

China has signed a series of economic agreements with several South American countries, given its hunger for new markets for export of commercial goods and imports of raw materials like metals and oil, indispensable for sustained development of the Chinese economy. At the moment, the Asian giant is the main buyer of Mexican copper and analysts say it could increase purchases in Mexico of metals like cadmium, zinc and lead. However, China will not import Mexico's crude oil, which is too thick for the country's refineries to process. The presidents signed agreements to promote cooperation in the mining sector and in import-export in the fruit sector, but there was little sign that China will invest heavily in Mexico, as the local business community hopes.

Beijing intends to raise its diplomatic profile to enhance its role on the international market. Adam Segal, senior fellow in China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said: "They want to try to assuage those fears and give a sense that China's rise is going to be good for everyone." A few dozen people gathered outside the hotel where Hu is staying, in the absence of media press and public figures, to protest against the treatment meted out by the Chinese regime to members of the Falun Gong. However, this was nothing in comparison to Hu's trip to Canada last week, where members of the Falun Gong, Uighurs (Chinese ethnic group of the northern region of Xinjiang) and Tibetans took to the streets to protest against his visit. During the meeting with Fox, China's human rights record was not even mentioned.

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