Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 11th China-Latin America and the Caribbean (China-LAC) Business Summit at the Punta del Este Convention Center, in Punta del Este, Uruguay, on Dec. 1, 2017. Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez said Friday that his country aims to sign a comprehensive cooperation agreement with China in 2018, along with other members of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). (Xinhua/Nicolas Celaya)
PUNTA DEL ESTE, Uruguay, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez said Friday that his country aims to sign a comprehensive cooperation agreement with China in 2018, along with other members of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
"We aim to agree on a joint plan of action for cooperation," Vazquez said at the opening of the 11th China-Latin America and the Caribbean (China-LAC) Business Summit in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
Vazquez said he received an "interesting proposal from China" with "bold" ideas, such as creating a free trade zone between CELAC and China, stepping up financial cooperation and developing infrastructure.
Vazquez acknowledged there are "several hurdles and geographic distances that we must overcome to optimize this partnership and continue making progress in ties with China," which he described as the "champion of international trade and engine of global commerce."
Uruguayan Foreign Affairs Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa also underscored his country's ties with China, and its agricultural sector's role in supplying the Chinese market.
"We want to contribute to China's food security. Uruguay is home to 3 million inhabitants and produces food for 30 to 35 million people," said Novoa.
"We are interested in partnering with the 'new normal' China," said Novoa, referring to the Asian giant's transition from an export-driven economy to a consumer-driven economy.
"Uruguay has strengths in many areas. We want to be allies, with an emphasis on joint development projects in the field of agriculture," said Novoa.
China is Uruguay's leading trade partner, with bilateral trade standing at some 3.373 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 20 percent of the South American country's total international trade in goods.
Bilateral trade grew 19 percent in the first nine months of the year, reaching 3.250 billion dollars, and Uruguay's exports to China have grown 22 percent a year on average in the past decade, according to Uruguay's export promotion agency Uruguay XXI.
The two-day China-LAC business summit helped lay the groundwork for next year's ministerial meeting of CELAC, which is a regional bloc of 33 countries with a population of some 600 million.
The bloc seeks to deepen political, economic, social and cultural integration in Latin America and the Caribbean, and reduce the influence of the United States in the region.