China is very responsible in handling pandemic; Argentine will not impose restrictions or quarantine on Chinese tourists: Ambassador
Published: Jan 08, 2023 12:08 AM
Argentina Ambassador to China Sabino Vaca Narvaja Photo: Hu Yuwei/GT

Argentina Ambassador to China Sabino Vaca Narvaja Photo: Hu Yuwei/GT

China has been very responsible in handling the pandemic and is undoubtedly the most supportive country for most emerging economies, Argentine Ambassador to China Sabino Vaca Narvaja told the Global Times in an exclusive interview.

He noted that China is today one of the main economies in the world and for the Latin America region, and represents one of the region's main trading partners. Therefore, the measures that China will adopt from January 8 will be "extremely relevant for our entire region because that will not only reactivate tourism, but will also accelerate commercial trips and official visits, which are very important for the relationship to continue to deepen," he stressed.

China has recently ushered in a series of new COVID policies that further relax restrictions and facilitate the free movement of goods and people. Starting from January 8, the provisional measures on cross-border state that inbound travelers with no issues to report in their health declaration can enter China without being subject to quarantine.

While the adjustment of COVID policy has won wide spread support as it is believed to boost not only China but also the global economy, some countries announced to impose additional measures for Chinese travelers, citing so-called "virus concern".

"Argentina will not impose any restrictions or quarantine measures on Chinese tourists. We are very happy that China is advancing into this new stage and visits and tourism are resuming because until the pandemic began, it had become the world leader in outbound tourism," Narvaja told the Global Times.

"In Argentina, we hope that this dynamic of Chinese tourism will resume quickly after the new regulations because the tourism industry is essential for our regional economies and my country possesses natural and cultural resources that make it very attractive to Chinese tourists," he noted.

Argentine consulates in China are preparing to meet expected Chinese demand for travel. Orders for visas are increasing and there is a lot of interest from the Chinese public.

"This shows that all the work that has been carried out during these years has greatly increased the knowledge, affection and attention of the population of this great country for Argentina," he said.

Narvaja did not forget to mention the impact of the recently concluded World Cup with Argentina clinching the famous trophy, proving a major draw for Chinese people's interest in visiting the country. The Argentinian football team and superstar Lionel Messi have a considerable fan base in China.

During the interview, Narvaja expressed appreciation for the health focused cooperation between the two countries, especially China's provision of COVID-19 vaccines to the country during the pandemic.

"Argentina highly values all health cooperation, both for supplies and vaccines at a time when it was very difficult to access them," he said.

According to the Argentine diplomat, even today in Argentina, the most widely used vaccine continues to be that produced by Sinopharm.

"In the bilateral meeting that our presidents had in February, within the framework of the successful Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, both leaders highlighted the spirit of health cooperation in the pandemic and our president especially thanked the acquisition of vaccines as a key element to strengthen our national vaccination program," he elaborated.

Investment, tourism cooperation to deepen

Cooperation between China and Argentina maintained strong momentum even during the pandemic with the bilateral trade growing and China consolidating itself as one of Argentina's main trading partners.

Meanwhile, progress was made in cooperation in terms of investment in infrastructure, where China is the main investor and financier of the most significant infrastructure works, such as investment in railways, the Santa Cruz hydroelectric dams, the largest photovoltaic park in the region and numerous new works embodied in the DECCE (Strategic Dialogue for Economic Coordination and Cooperation), such as the country's fourth nuclear power plant with Hualong technology , the system of electrical networks and gas pipelines, among many other projects.

"These works are essential to continue expanding our logistics capacity, which, in addition to strengthening our export capacity, favors our internal development," Narvaja said.

According to Narvaja, progress has also been made in numerous inter-institutional agreements in the fields of science and technology, education, culture, sports and business.

"I believe that all this work carried out intensively over the years will undoubtedly be enhanced by the increase in travel and high-quality exchange level," he said with hope.

He revealed to the Global Times that a special point on which he thinks that progress will be made quickly will be about investments in electromobility and lithium, where Argentina has one of the main reserves worldwide.

"We have several projects under construction for the production of lithium carbonate in our country led by Chinese companies. In fact, of the nine mining projects with Chinese capital in our country, six correspond to projects for the extraction of this mineral and in one of them, progress is being made in the production of batteries, which, together with other initiatives, will allow Argentina to work toward a reconversion of its automotive industry in view of the global advancement of electromobility," he said.

Within the framework of the visit of President Alberto Fernández in February, an important cooperation agreement was signed between the ministries of education of Argentina and China to promote the development of educational exchanges, the twinning between universities, schools and institutes of higher education, the realization of joint academic research and the granting of scholarships from Argentina and China.

Since then, the approaches and the signing of agreements between universities have multiplied and the number of Argentine students seeking to study Chinese, and Chinese students who study Spanish has increased sharply.

"Argentina can offer Chinese students universities of important prestige, such as the University of Buenos Aires, selected as the most important in different areas of studies and which has increasing cooperation with China.

On the other hand, the Chinese-Argentine Binational Center for the Study of Policies for Innovation and Technology was recently created, based on an agreement signed between the Ministers of Science and Technology of both countries.

"I think that now everything that has been worked on in recent years in educational, cultural and business matters will be seen with great momentum. Because the coronavirus pandemic did not stop our work, the rapprochement between our countries and the interest in increasing our bilateral ties, but it did keep the results of these efforts on hold, which will now be able to be clearly glimpsed from the increase in educational, cultural, business and delegation exchanges from both countries," he noted.

The government of Argentina is now developing a comprehensive plan to further promote tourism between the two nations.

This plan involves establishing direct flights, improving the speed of granting visas, enabling electronic payment methods that are widely used in China. The country's Ministry of Tourism and Sports signed a cooperation agreement with one of the main Chinese e-tourism platforms, Ctrip group, in order to promote this business.

The Ambassador told the Global Times that since he arrived in China in 2020, he has dedicated himself to visiting more than 26 provinces throughout the country because he believes that subnational cooperation is essential due to the potential China has with Argentina. "Undoubtedly, with the new regulations, I will be able to get to know the country in greater depth and, in this sense, I have yet to strengthen my presence in the northern and central provinces of China," he said.

Argentina is close to achieving the first step in the objective of expanding Argentina's diplomatic footprint in China with the opening of its Chengdu consulate, one of the cities with the greatest technological, commercial, agricultural and industrial potential.

"And being located in the strategic province of Sichuan -which has almost twice the population of my country and a GDP that exceeds that of Argentina-, allows us to improve the export logistics of Argentine products in the west region of China," he said.

"I am working on a subnational cooperation strategy, which promotes the twinning of cities and provinces in China and Argentina based on the common points and diversities of our countries. My idea is to advance in the opening of two more consulates, one in the northern region and another in the central region because I believe that in this way we will be able to have a greater presence in a country of great size and diversity," he summarized.