By Ryan Woo
BEIJING (Reuters) – China is ready to work with Argentina to keep relations on a “stable” course, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday, after Argentina’s presidential election victory. right-wing libertarian who said he would not deal with communists.
Argentine President-elect Javier Milei criticized China and Brazil, which are among his country’s most important trading partners. A few months ago, Milei even compared the Chinese government to a “murderer” and said the Chinese people were “not free.”
Milei’s tough comments on China stand in stark contrast to the pledge of cooperation from outgoing President Alberto Fernandez, who visited Beijing last month and hailed China as a “true friend” of Argentina.
Fernandez also promised coordination with China in frameworks such as the G20 and BRICS.
“Bilateral relations between China and Argentina have shown good growth momentum,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.
“China is ready to work with Argentina to keep our relations on the right track,” she said.
But Diana Mondino, an economist tipped to become foreign minister in Milei’s government, reportedly told Russian news agency RIA Novosti that Argentina would “stop interacting” with the Chinese and Brazilian governments, when asked asked if Argentina would encourage exports and imports with these countries.
Mondino previously told Reuters that Milei’s Argentina had no plans to join the BRICS group, which includes China and Russia. Argentina was among six countries invited to become new members of BRICS, a bloc that also includes Brazil, India and South Africa.
Mao, asked at a regular news conference about comments attributed to Mondino, said the description of Mondino’s remarks was different from the interview published by RIA Novosti.
“Mondino said in the interview that some in the world have misinterpreted President-elect Milei’s foreign policy,” Mao said.
“No country can sever diplomatic relations while still being able to engage in trade and economic cooperation. It would be a serious foreign policy error for Argentina to sever its ties with major countries like China or Brazil,” Mao said.
China’s Foreign Ministry said later Tuesday that Mao quoted Mondino as saying it would be a mistake to cut ties with China or Brazil.
Reuters could not immediately find a version of the interview containing the comments. Mondino did not respond to a Reuters request to clarify his comments to RIA Novosti.
Earlier this month, Mondino said Argentina had no problem trading with Brazil and that, as for China, Milei would seek to end opaque interstate agreements.
“What we are not going to do is secret contracts. Argentina, this government, over the last 20 years, has conducted multiple secret negotiations,” she said. “It’s not normal and it’s what we said we weren’t going to do.”
Chinese state media has so far downplayed Milei’s comments but said it would be a loss for Argentina if it excluded China from its market.
(Reporting by Ryan Woo; editing by Alex Richardson and Grant McCool)