March 13, 2007, 1:34PM EST
The Associated Press
Trade between Cuba and China ballooned to US$1.8 billion (euro1.4 billion) last year, double that of 2005, Beijing's ambassador to the island said.
China's exports of buses, locomotives and farm equipment and supplies to Cuba in 2006 helped account for the sharp increase over the previous year, Zhao Rongxian said in a story posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Cuban government's business weekly Opciones. He did not provide specific numbers for Chinese-Cuban trade in 2005.
An official Cuban report last year said trade between the two countries was about US$775,000 (euro590,000) during the 12-month period ending in October 2005. It was unclear if the US$1.8 billion (euro1.4 billion) figure corresponded to the same 12 months in 2006.
"We are both socialist countries, we have a lot in common and magnificent relations of cooperation in all areas," the ambassador said.
Cuba sent nickel, sugar and medicine, as well as biotechnological products to China. Chinese tourists also visited Cuba in record numbers and now average more than 10,000 a year, the ambassador said.
For decades, China did not trade with Cuba because of the island's economic dependence on Moscow, then a rival of Beijing.
But since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Venezuela -- with its generous oil exports at favorable prices -- has emerged as the island's top commercial partner, while trade from China has steadily increased.
Cuba's official trade figures are difficult to verify because the government includes social services not counted in U.N.-standard measures of economic output.
Government officials reported last month that trade with Venezuela topped US$2.6 billion (euro1.97 billion) in 2006.