Vanessa Arrington | Havana | November 22
AP – Chinese President Hu Jintao met with Fidel Castro Monday for talks focusing on the broadening ties between Cuba and China, which has become the island’s third-largest trading partner.
Chinese President Meets With Castro
The Cuban leader, who shattered his left kneecap and broke his right arm in an accidental fall last month, sat in a wheelchair as he greeted Hu and his wife, Liu Yongqing, in Havana’s Palace of the Revolution.
Castro was in a dark suit, in contrast to the casual clothes he wore during recent visits by the presidents of Vietnam and Venezuela.
Officials didn’t disclose the substance of their private meeting, but Hu said in a statement the pair would discuss bilateral relations and international problems.
He was also expected to discuss possible business deals in the nickel, telecommunications and tourism sectors.
Relations between the two countries were tense during the Cold War, when the Caribbean island had a strong alliance with the Soviet Union. But since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, political and commercial ties between Cuba and China have steadily strengthened.
China now trails only Venezuela and Spain in volume of trade with Cuba, comprising 10 percent of the island’s foreign commerce, according to Ricardo Cabrisas, Cuba’s minister of government.
The Chinese president flew in from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which concluded Sunday in Santiago, Chile.
His visit to Havana coincided with a meeting of 400 or so Chinese and Cuban business leaders, whom Hu was expected to address Tuesday.
In remarks opening the two-day business forum, China’s vice minister of commerce said trade between China and Cuba reached $401 million in the first 10 months of this year – 36 percent more than in all of 2003.
“This reflects the disposition of Chinese business people to strengthen relations with Cuba,” Ma Xiuhong said.
There are 13 Chinese companies operating in Cuba that have made investments of $50 million. Seven Cuban companies are working in China, with investments of $15 million.
Associated Press reporter Andrea Rodriguez contributed to this report in Havana.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers