As Argentina seeks partners to help rebuild its battered economy, there are signs that its ties with China are growing more important. 

Economic problems in Argentina and its other major partners have prompted the country to turn towards China for support, according to Dr Jorge Malena, the director of the contemporary China programme at the Universidad Católica Argentina.

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“The Chinese economic presence is likely to grow in Argentina, as the other major partners (the US and the EU) are heading for economic slowdown and Argentina is marching towards a critical economic situation. For this reason, China can be the provider of the trade and investment that Argentina so badly needs.”

China overtook Brazil as Argentina’s largest trading partner in April, according to data from the country’s chamber of exporters (Cera). President Alberto Fernández will travel to China in November to discuss further cooperation. 

The growing ties between the two countries are most evident in Argentina’s pork industry, with a draft memorandum of understanding between them, aimed at catalysing Chinese investment in the sector, expected to be signed in the coming weeks, sources tell fDi

A July 6 press release from Argentina’s ministry of foreign affairs predicts that the deal will help increase annual pork production to 900,000 tons in four years, up from 630,000 tons in 2019. The extra output will be exported to China, the world’s largest pork consumer, which has lost 60% of its pigs to an outbreak of African swine fever since 2018. 

Lisandro Culasso, the president of the Argentine Association of Pork Production, told fDi that cooperation is still in its early stages, with the number and size of the investments not yet agreed.

However, he expressed confidence in the “existing know-how and expertise among our producers”, potentially “doubling Argentina’s pork production in order to supply China’s increasing pork meat demand”.

According to Dr Malena, there are opportunities in other sectors, especially since China imposed restrictions on the import of barley, wine and beef from Australia in May 2020. Argentina is a major producer of these products, creating an opportunity to boost its exports.

Opportunities also exist for greater Argentine involvement in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has seen China invest billions in infrastructure projects around the world.