Sep 14, 2018 11:56 UTC
  • Venezuela's Maduro seeks to broker deals with 'big sister' China

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has hailed China as a “big sister” during his visit to the East Asian economic powerhouse, seeking to boost bilateral ties amid economic crisis at home.

Maduro said after landing in Beijing on Friday that he had come with “great expectations” to further deepen strategic ties with his country's key lender.

The 55-year-old leftist leader said his visit would give a “big push” to energy investments, trade and the “successful financial relationship” between the two countries.

Maduro, who last visited China in March 2017, is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping later in the day.

“China is our big sister. I will be very happy when I meet with our brother Xi Jinping on Friday,” he noted.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the two leaders were expected to discuss ties and “issues of common concern,” as well as overseeing the signing of economic deals.

“Recently, the Venezuelan government has actively promoted economic and financial reform with a good social response,” the ministry said, adding that “this visit by President Maduro is beneficial to both sides’ mutual trust, to push forward cooperation, to expand ties between the two countries and to promote Venezuela’s development.”

In a televised address before leaving Venezuela, Maduro said the trip was “very necessary, very opportune and full of great expectations.”

“We are leaving under better conditions, having activated a program of economic recovery, growth and prosperity. We are going to improve, broaden and deepen relations with this great world power,” he said.

Before Maduro's arrival, Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez held a meeting with Chinese officials from the China Development Bank and China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), which is a major investor in oil and gas exploration in the Latin American country.

China has loaned some $50 billion to OPEC member Venezuela in the past decade, with Caracas repaying the debt in several installments with oil shipments. Caracas still owes $20 billion to Beijing.

China has reportedly agreed to pay Caracas a new $5 billion loan with a six-month extension to the grace period to service its debt.

Venezuela, which sits atop the world’s largest oil reserves, has been struggling with a worsening economic situation during the past years.

About 2.3 million Venezuelans have left the country since the economic crisis erupted in 2015 — more than 500,000 only this year — mostly for Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.