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China, Cuba sign economic pact on Castro visit

Friday, July 06, 2012    

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BEIJING, China (AP) — Cuba yesterday signed a series of economic agreements with China coinciding with a visit to Beijing by leader Raul Castro that offered him a first-hand look at Chinese economic reforms.

The pacts inked yesterday include a grant and interest-free loan to the Cuban government for economic and technological cooperation, and a credit line to support Cuban health care and other public services. No details were given.

The signings followed talks in which Castro told Chinese President Hu Jintao that relations between the nations were deepening and broadening.

The trip is Castro's first to China since taking over from his brother in 2008, and Cuba watchers have speculated he would study China's mix of socialism and market liberalisation of which he spoke approvingly during a 1997 visit.

Asked what Cuba could learn, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said China was eager to share its experiences.

"We consider that mutual communications benefit helping countries adopt a suitable model for economic and social development depending on concrete local conditions," Liu told reporters at a briefing.

Cuba is China's biggest commercial partner in the Caribbean. Beijing helped prop up the Cuban economy after the withdrawal of Russian aid in the 1990s. Bilateral trade totaled US$1.8 billion in 2010.

Though both communist nations, China has opened broadly to private business and has thrived economically while Cuba remains largely poor.

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