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Xi Jinping heads to Mexico after signing trade deals in Costa Rica

President Xi Jinping headed to Mexico yesterday after a successful trade and diplomatic foray into Costa Rica, the only Central American nation that has diplomatic relations with Beijing.

China is Mexico's second-largest trading partner after the United States, and Mexico is Latin America's second-largest economy after Brazil. Both countries are members of the Group of 20 leading economies.

Xi, the first Chinese president to visit Mexico since 2005, was scheduled to meet President Enrique Pena Nieto, deliver a speech to congress today and visit the ancient Maya archaeological site of Chichen Itza tomorrow, according to Mexican officials.

Xi's trip to the Americas began over the weekend in Trinidad and Tobago, where he met leaders of English-speaking Caribbean nations. After Mexico, Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan travel to California for a meeting with US President Barack Obama.

Premier Li Keqiang told a visiting delegation of former senior US officials yesterday that the upcoming summit "will chart a blueprint for a new type of bilateral relationship that features equality, trust, tolerance, co-operation and common prosperity", Xinhua reported.

On Monday, Xi and Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla signed deals on projects worth nearly US$2 billion, including upgrades of an oil refinery, a key highway and public transport.

"Relations between China and Costa Rica could well become a model of co-operation between countries of different sizes and national conditions," Xi said after meeting privately with Chinchilla.

The biggest project will be the modernisation of an obsolete oil refinery in the Caribbean port El Limon that will be replaced with a new refinery capable of processing 65,000 barrels of oil a day. The US$1.5 billion venture will be financed with a US$900 million credit from the China Development Bank, with the remainder put up by the China National Petroleum Corp and the Refinadora Costaricense de Petroleo.

Another big project agreed to is the upgrading of Route 32, a strategic highway that links San Jose to El Limon, a US$400 million endeavour that will be financed by China.

Chinchilla said her country will make the visa process more flexible to increase the number of Chinese tourists and business visitors. Foreign Minister Jose Enrique Castillo said Costa Rica will speed up the process for Chinese who already have visas from other countries, such as the US and European Union.

Costa Rica will also add workers at the country's consulates in Beijing and Shanghai to process paperwork quicker.

Xi briefly got away from the formalities of the day to visit a coffee plantation in Santo Domingo de Heredia.

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