China's Xi sees new 'golden era' in Latin America

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - President Xi Jinping on Wednesday heralded the dawn of a new "golden era" for Latin America during a visit to Mexico and urged the region to hitch its economic development to China's solid growth.

"New contact with the region, so full of hope and dynamism, makes me convinced Latin America has unbeatable conditions favoring its development," the Chinese leader told Mexico's Senate on the second day of his visit.

In recent years China has expanded trade and investment ties with Latin America as the world's second biggest economy taps into the region's mineral and oil wealth to fuel its economic surge.

Now Beijing is also keenly interested in increasing food supply chains as it seeks to counterbalance US geopolitical heft. By around 2016, China will overtake the European Union as the second largest market for Latin America's exports, UN data show.

Mr Xi predicted China's economic growth would remain "relatively fast" and appealed to countries across the region to deepen their ties with the Asian giant and its outsized role in the global economy.

China "will invest more than US$500 billion overseas in the next five years," Mr Xi said, while Chinese nationals will make an estimated 400 million trips abroad during that same period, with great economic implications.

Mr Xi had earlier met with President Enrique Pena Nieto as the two leaders vowed to work jointly to access international markets, like the lucrative US market, as part of a new strategic partnership.

They pledged to enhance diplomatic and trade ties and to smooth over their long-standing rivalry on exporting products to the United States.

Mexico is a member of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), along with the United States and Canada.

Mr Xi arrived in Mexico after visiting Costa Rica, and after meeting Caribbean leaders in Trinidad and Tobago. On Friday Mr Xi travels to the United States for a much-anticipated weekend summit with US President Barack Obama.

Meanwhile Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan, a famed soprano in her home country, and Mexico's first lady, former telenovela star Angelica Rivera, toured a facility producing soap operas, a hugely successful Mexican export.