updated 11/16/2004 8:29:59 PM ET 2004-11-17T01:29:59

China will invest more than US$19 billion (euro14.7 billion) in Argentina over the next 10 years, deepening trade links between the world's fastest-growing economy and South America's second-largest, Argentine officials said.

The announcement of the trade and investment agreements came Tuesday as Chinese President Hu Jintao opened a two-day visit to Argentina, part of a Latin American tour widely seen as an effort by China to expand the country's economic presence in the region.

Argentine officials said the multibillion-dollar investments would be made in energy production, infrastructure and Argentina's railway system in what would amount to the largest bilateral trade accord for the South American country since its 2001-2 economic crisis.

"Our aim is to strengthen this relationship despite the distances," between the two countries, Kirchner said.

The largest investment includes a Chinese pledge to invest US$8 billion (euro6.2 billion) in the coming years to expand Argentina's railway system, US$6 billion (euro4.6 billion) over five years in contruction projects, along with US$5 billion (euro3.9 billion) in oil exploration.

Hu's arrival in Buenos Aires followed a five-day visit to Brazil, where Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva recognized China as a market economy, a move that should make it easier for the two countries to do business.

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