Venezuela looks to Chinese market to aid troubled economy

World Today

Venezuela looks to Chinese market to aid troubled economy

Business owners from Venezuela are among the thousands who are looking for customers at the China International Import Expo.

The country’s economic crisis makes their products particularly affordable for overseas buyers. CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg reports on their successes and their failures.

In September, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro made his second visit to China as President. Among the topics discussed was the South American country’s debt. It owes China tens of billions of dollars. While Beijing is Caracas’ biggest creditor, it’s only its third-biggest buyer.

That may explain why Venezuela sent a 200-strong delegation to the first-ever China International Import Expo in Shanghai this week. Right now, petroleum accounts for 95 percent of Venezuela’s exports. The government is hoping to diversify Venezuela’s offerings and thinks China’s growing appetite can help. Here, Venezuelans producers can meet face-to-face with Chinese buyers — speed-dating for companies.

“We have to understand what is the culture of China, then, of course, we have to understand how they do business,” said Fernando Ochoa, the Director General of Ron de Venezuela.

Sometimes there’s a match. El Granero — an agribusiness — received an order for 1,200 containers of rice and mung beans, known in Venezuela as Chinese beans.

And this brother-and-sister-run company got a letter of intent from a Chinese buyer who wants 50,000 tons of the beans, a figure well beyond the company’s current production capacity. It’s no secret that the Venezuelan brand has an image problem in the West. The East may be it’s new lifeline.

“I think Venezuela has a friendly relationship with China,” said importer Yang Kai Jian. “For me, that’s one of the first considerations. If the two countries don’t have good relations, we can’t do business.”

Fernando Ochoa represents 13 Venezuelan rum makers. Only one now sells in China, and he’s hoping there is room for more.

“China is looking for partners, and Venezuela could be a good partner,” said Ochoa. “We have many raw materials of quality, and they need raw materials. We have very good final products like rum, and they need this type of product.”

There’s another reason these products might be appealing.

“The currency of Venezuela is depreciating, which means I can buy things at a lower price,” said importer Yang Kai Jian.

But apparently, not low enough. For now, there was no deal. Perhaps, like a good rum, a good deal takes time to age.

Haiyan Wang on the China International Import Expo

CGTN’s Mike Walter talked with Haiyan Wang of the China India Institute on how the China International Import Expo is affecting China’s goal to increase cross-border trade.