BEIJING -- President Xi Jinping's tour in Latin America marks the full launch of China's ties with the region that is increasingly important to both sides, according to Chinese scholars.
From May 31 to June 6, Xi paid state visits to Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico. He also met with leaders from several Caribbean countries in Trinidad and Tobago's Port of Spain.
In a speech given at the Mexican Senate on Wednesday, Xi called for concerted efforts to beef up relations China and Latin America.
Yang Zhimin, a research fellow from the Latin America Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Xi's visit marks the full launch of ties of China and Latin America, which, in geological terms, is composed of four sub-regions, including South America, Central America, the Caribbean region and Mexico.
Yang said the three states Xi visited represent distinct subdivisions of Latin America and are economically complementary to China.
"For example, Chinese tourists can boost the development of the tourism industries in those countries, while those countries' agricultural products and mineral resources can find a market in China," Yang said.
Yang said China can learn from some Latin American countries in terms of financial services and ecological conservation.
In 2008, China's government published a policy document detailing its ties with Latin America, vowing to build a comprehensive cooperative partnership with mutual benefit and equality.
Trade volume between the two sides has increased from 2.29 billion U.S. dollars in 1990 to 261.2 billion U.S dollars in 2012. Of the 10 free trade agreements China has signed with other countries, three are with Latin American countries.
While holding a luncheon with state leaders from Caribbean countries, Xi said China will unswervingly develop a comprehensive cooperative partnership with these countries.
"Xi met with a number of leaders from Caribbean countries. The outcome of the meetings was quite positive and demonstrates the attention China has paid to the region," Yang said.
In San Jose, Xi and Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla agreed to enhance high-level exchanges and pragmatic cooperation.
Yang said Costa Rica serves as an important hub between North and South America, adding that China can strengthen its economic ties with other countries in the region that have no diplomatic ties with China.
Xi said at the Mexican Senate that a stronger partnership between China and Latin America will boost the development of both sides and serve peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the world.
The visits mark Xi's second foreign trip since he became China's president in March. At the end of March, Xi visited Russia, Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo. He also attended the fifth BRICS leaders' summit in Durban.
Qu Xing, head of the Institute of International Studies, said state leaders' visits are not decided upon casually.
"Xi has visited some countries that past Chinese presidents never visited," Qu said. "Xi's visits have shown China's willingness to deepen and broaden its ties with developing countries."