China, Cuba agree to deepen ties during PM Li's Havana visit
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Cuba's President Raul Castro (R) shakes hands with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during their meeting at Havana's Revolution Palace, Cuba September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa
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HAVANA (Reuters) - Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang met with Cuban President Raul Castro on Saturday during a two-day trip to Havana, and the two leaders oversaw the signing of around 30 agreements on economic cooperation in various sectors, Cuban state media reported.
Li is the first Chinese premier to visit Cuba since the two countries established diplomatic relations 56 years ago, although President Xi Jinping visited in 2014.
China is Cuba's second largest trading partner after Venezuela. The two countries traded $1.6 billion in the first nine months of 2015, a 57 percent increase on the same period the previous year, official Cuban data shows.
Li said in an interview with the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma that his trip aimed to deepen the two countries' relationship, forge new areas of economic cooperation and "intensify the mutual political trust."
The two countries signed agreements on collaboration in the science, environmental, industry, energy, public health and agricultural sectors, Cuban state TV said. China also agreed to extend lines of credit for certain projects, it added, but did not specify how much.
Cuba has become a hot destination for tourists, foreign investors and leaders alike since the government embarked on business-friendly reforms and Havana and Washington announced a detente nearly two years ago after decades of hostility.
Earlier this week, Shinzo Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to visit Communist-ruled Cuba, saying he wanted to deepen the two countries' relationship.
Li landed in Havana on Saturday and is set to leave early on Monday. No news conference is scheduled during his visit.
(Reporting by Nelson Acosta and Sarah Marsh; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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