China ready to work with Argentina despite President-elect Milei’s criticism

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning attends a press conference in Beijing

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning attends a news conference in Beijing, China July 26, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo Commercial License Rights

BEIJING, Nov 21 (Reuters) – China is ready to work with Argentina to keep relations on a “stable” course, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday, following the presidential election victory of a right-wing libertarian who said he would not deal with communists.

Argentine President-elect Javier Milei has criticized China and Brazil, which are among his country’s most important trading partners. A few months ago, Milei even compared the Chinese government to a “murderer” and said that the people of China were “not free.”

Milei’s tough talk about China contrasts sharply with a pledge of cooperation from outgoing president Alberto Fernandez, who visited Beijing last month and hailed China as a “true friend” of Argentina.

Fernandez also promised coordination with China under frameworks such as the G20 and BRICS.

“Bilateral relations between China and Argentina have shown healthy growth,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said.

“China is ready to work with Argentina to keep our relations on a stable course forward,” she said.

But Diana Mondino, an economist tipped to become foreign minister in the Milei government, was quoted as saying by Russia’s state-owned news agency RIA Novosti that Argentina would “stop interacting” with the governments of China and Brazil when they were asked if Argentina would encourage exports and imports with these countries.

Mondino previously told Reuters that Argentina under Milei had no intention of joining the BRICS group, which includes China and Russia. Argentina was among six countries invited to become new members of BRICS, a bloc whose members also include Brazil, India and South Africa.

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Mao, asked at a regular press conference about the comments attributed to Mondino, said that the characterization of Mondino’s comments was different from the interview published by RIA Novosti.

“Mondino said in the interview that some in the world misunderstood President Milei’s foreign policy,” Mao said.

“No country could withdraw from diplomatic relations and still be able to engage in economic trade and cooperation. It would be a huge foreign policy mistake for Argentina to cut ties with major countries like China or Brazil,” Mao said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said later Tuesday that Mao quoted Mondino as saying it would be a mistake to cut ties with China or Brazil.

Reuters could not immediately find a version of the interview that included those comments. Mondino did not respond to a Reuters request to clarify her comments to RIA Novosti.

Earlier this month, Mondino said Argentina had no problem trading with Brazil, and as for China, Milei would try to end opaque state-to-state deals.

“What we don’t want to do is secret contracts. Argentina, this government for the last 20 years has had several secret negotiations,” she said. “It’s not normal and it’s what we’ve said we won’t do.”

Chinese state media have so far played down Milei’s comments, but said it would be Argentina’s loss if it were to shut China out of its market.

Reporting by Ryan Woo; Editing by Alex Richardson and Grant McCool

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