Xi Jinping finished his first trip to Latin America as China’s leader Tuesday with a toast. The Chinese president celebrated in this fashion his agreement with Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto, which will bring the two countries closer both politically and economically.
The new strategic plan, dubbed the Tequila Agreement -- since the Mexican drink is one of the main products China wants to import -- marked a new height in relations between both countries. When Peña Nieto visited Beijing last April, he expressed interest in increasing trade with China and reducing the difference between Mexico's imports from China -- $57 billion in 2012 -- and exports -- $5.7 billion.
“Mexico and China are two countries on the rise in a new international order. That is why I hope [Xi's] visit will allow us to work together towards the economic growth and the improvement of lives for our people,” Peña Nieto told Mexican newspaper Azteca Noticias.
Relations between the countries have been unstable in the last few years, Spanish newspaper El País reports, with the previous two presidents of Mexico adopting a distant approach to the Asian giant. Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) criticized in 2009 the decision of China to put Mexican residents in quarantine because of the H1N1 epidemic and later received the Dalai Lama in 2011, which made Beijing freeze an agreement for the import of pork.
The two countries have also butted heads over the question of Taiwan’s sovereignty, which China rejects. Mexico, along with most countries in Latin America -- the exception being Costa Rica -- supports Taiwan’s independence. Neither Xi nor Peña Nieto mentioned the issue in their meeting.
None of the leaders gave any concrete dates or numbers on their joint decisions, but they made a point in emphasizing their intention to leave their differences behind and work toward a more cooperative climate, which Peña Nieto even referred to as “fraternity.”
Xi agreed that the two countries were moving to a more collaborative stage and that their joint effort to increase international trade would be “beneficial for the world,” Mexican newspaper El Universal reports.
Aside from signing the Tequila Agreement, which sets the foundation for the import to China of Mexican pork and tequila, the leaders made decisions for the promotion of tourism and student exchange between the two countries. Xi also said that Chinese investment in Mexico will be focused on infrastructure for energy and mining and announced a summit in Mexico City in 2015 between Chinese and Latin American entrepreneurs.
After the meeting with Peña Nieto, Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, left the capital for Yucatán, where they will visit the ruins of Chichen Itzá before traveling to the U.S. on Friday.
Follow me on Twitter: @PReyMallen