China and Argentina signed 18 agreements covering infrastructure, energy and railway projects on Tuesday as Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner held talks with her Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.

Following a welcome ceremony at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Ms. Kirchner said her closed talks with Mr. Hu would focus on bilateral and global issues.

State media quoted Mr. Hu as saying that China wants to expand bilateral trade and investment, and promote cooperation in mining; transportation; finance; farming, forestry and animal husbandry; infrastructure construction; and oil and gas exploitation.

The two presidents attended the signing of 12 agreements, most of them covering the same areas mentioned by Mr. Hu.

The agreements included a memorandum of cooperation between China’s state petrochemical firm Sinopec and Argentina’s Enarsa, and another for cooperation between Enrasa and China’s state hydro—power firm Sinohydra.

The China National Development Bank also agreed to provide the Argentinian Citizens’ Bank with a 150—million—dollar credit line.

The two sides did not disclose the value of the 11 other agreements.

Ms. Kirchner and Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu had earlier attended the signing of six agreements for Chinese assistance on railway and subway projects in Argentina.

Under the contracts, Beijing is to provide an export credit to Argentina for purchasing Chinese locomotives and will help with the construction of a light rail system, subways and the electrification of rail lines.

Before starting talks with Mr. Hu, Ms. Fernandez apologized for postponing her trip to China, which was originally scheduled for January, because of “internal problems” in Argentina.

Earlier on Tuesday, she had told a China—Argentina business forum that the two nations have “great potential” to expand trade and economic cooperation.

The two sides also worked to play down a recent trade spat.

China’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said it expected the two nations to negotiate a resolution to the trade dispute over imports of soy oil.

“The problem of exporting (Argentine) soy oil to China is a normal problem in the process of trade and economic development,” ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters.

“I believe that if the two countries follow the spirit of mutual interest and win—win, then through friendly consultations, a proper resolution can be found,” Mr. Qin said.

In April, China had accused Argentina of using “abnormal and discriminatory” trade measures, escalating a dispute that erupted when China suspended imports of soy oil from the South American nation.

Vice Commerce Minister Jiang Yaoping said China was concerned about Argentina’s “growing tendency to impose protectionist measures on Chinese products,” adding that Argentina had opened 18 anti— dumping investigations against Chinese products last year.

Bilateral trade was valued at 14.4 billion dollars in 2008, making Argentina China’s second—largest trade partner in South America after Brazil, according to Chinese statistics. Trade figures for 2009 were not immediately available.

Ms. Kirchner’s five—day visit to China, which began on Sunday, is the first to the country by an Argentine president since 2004.

Ms. Kirchner, who took office in 2007, will also visit the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, diplomats said.

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