BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina indicated its interest on Tuesday in moving forward with China on initiatives including construction of the country’s fourth nuclear power plant and exporting locally processed soymeal to China, the government said following bilateral meetings in Beijing.
If finalized, the nuclear plant, reportedly worth up to $8 billion, would be one of the biggest projects financed in Argentina by China, which has become a key trading partner for Argentina and its biggest non-institutional lender.
Argentina’s cabinet chief Marcos Pena said “there is an intention to move forward” with the plant’s construction in a government statement following his meeting in Beijing with China’s Vice Premier Minister Hu Chunhua.
Pena will head from Beijing to the G20 summit in Japan.
An Argentine government official said in April that China’s own Hualong One reactor design would be a good choice for the plant. This month, China completed the outer safety dome at its first overseas “Hualong One” nuclear reactor in Pakistan.
The Argentine nuclear project, agreed under former President Cristina Fernandez, has stalled under the administration of Mauricio Macri, though government officials have signaled their intentions to reach a final agreement with China in the past year.
Pena also highlighted bilateral discussions aimed at allowing Argentine exports of soy derivatives like soymeal livestock feed to China. On Monday Argentina also sent its first shipment of refrigerated beef to Shanghai.
“You see very strong dynamism and a broad opening in terms of access to markets,” Pena said.
Argentina, which already sells raw soybeans to China to be processed into meal there, has been lobbying hard for permission to sell soymeal to directly feed the world’s biggest hog herd.
The trade war between Washington and Beijing has hit Argentina’s soy crushing industry hard. A glut of U.S. soybeans has pushed down the price of manufacturing U.S. meal, undercutting Argentine exports to customers in Europe and Southeast Asia. Wanting to protect its own crushing industry, China has been reluctant to open itself to Argentine meal.
(The story corrects fifth paragraph to read “Argentine government official” from “Chinese government official”.)
Reporting by Cassandra Garrison and Hugh Bronstein; Editing by David Gregorio