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China's Xi in Panama on mission to bolster clout in Latin America

AFP  |  Panama City 

Chinese has arrived in -- which broke ties with last year and switched its allegiance to -- for a visit aimed at extending his country's political and economic influence in

Xi is set to meet Monday with Panamanian Juan Carlos Varela, and sign an array of cooperation agreements. He will also meet with business leaders and visit the Canal's new Cocoli Locks.

In a column written for the Estrella de Panama, a local newspaper, Xi said he had "high expectations" for the visit, the first ever by a Chinese leader to the country.

"We must be cooperative partners of mutual benefit and shared profits," wrote Xi, who arrived in late Sunday from Argentina, where he attended the summit.

hopes that Panama can be a logistics hub for the expansion of trade in and the -- an idea that the business community here has fully embraced.

"Panama usually generates a lot of interest because of its strategic location in the region and because of the canal," Severo Sousa, of the (Conep), told AFP.

These factors -- along with Panama's political stability, growing economy and -- are "very attractive" to China, Sousa added.

is the second-biggest user of the after the

is hoping that will make multi-million-dollar investments in infrastructure projects. The two countries are negotiating a free trade agreement.

In June 2017, Panama established diplomatic relations with China, breaking off ties with

and have been governed separately since the end of a civil war on the mainland in 1949, but Beijing sees the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification.

Beijing and have been engaged for years in a diplomatic tug-of-war in developing countries, with aid and economic support often used as to gain diplomatic recognition.

Washington, which has accused the Chinese of trying to use aid to drive a wedge between and its Western Hemisphere partners, recalled its to in September this year.

Varela, who visited last year, promptly asked the US to respect his country's sovereignty.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, December 03 2018. 16:00 IST