Argentina secures ZTE deal amid US assault against Chinese tech companies

Argentina secures ZTE deal amid US assault against Chinese tech companies

ZTE has secured a deal worth $28 million with Jujuy, an Argentine province, where the Chinese telecommunications company will help build fiber optic cable systems, Felix Martin Soto, deputy minister of finance of the Argentine Republic, told the Global Times in an interview on Wednesday.

The deal has been finalized with the execution of the guarantee agreement between Argentina's National Government and BBVA Hong Kong, which financed the project, the official said.

The move comes amid the US' continuous efforts to curb China's high-tech rise, and prevent Chinese tech companies such as Huawei and ZTE from expanding around the world.

Dismissing concerns over US' warnings on Chinese tech companies, Martin Soto said "we never consider Chinese technology companies as a threat to national security. They are not a threat. On the contrary, we want Chinese companies to help us boost our technological development."

According to the agreement, ZTE will provide "a whole package service" to the province, including provision of fiber optic cable, cameras and control software, as well as emergency response alerts.

"The project will kick off in the following weeks," said Martin Soto.

Apart from the deal with ZTE, the South America country also aims to "stabilize its currency and promote financial inclusion" through cooperating with Chinese digital companies such as Huobi Group, a digital-asset trading platform. "Through the use of digital currency and blockchain technology, we hope to further reduce our reliance on the US currency and access to new financial opportunities aiming to help Argentina's development", Martin Soto said.

The exchange rate of the Argentine peso to the US dollar has fluctuated greatly, and the peso lost almost half of its value against the dollar last year.

According to a Reuters report, Argentina's central bank in November 2018 said that it would nearly double its currency swap deal with China, bringing the total to 130 billion yuan ($18.7 billion). The two first agreed to a currency swap program to boost Argentina's dwindling reserves in 2009.

During his stay in China, Martin Soto also visited the China Development Bank (CBD) and the Export-Import Bank of China, where he agreed to establish several facilities. "We decided to purchase train carriages worth $236 million from CRRC financed by CDB, and applied to China's Export-Import Bank for loans to expand a large-scale photovoltaic power project in northern Argentina," Martin Soto said.

Argentina is also working with CDB on a credit fund worth more than $1 billion to promote Chinese companies that want to invest in Argentina.

"All of these deals are made under the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative," he noted, adding that the country will explore more opportunities with China under the framework. 

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