A Chinese delegation is reportedly due to visit Argentina this month to discuss the construction of a nuclear power plant in the Latin American country.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Argentinean government source told Reuters on Friday that the “technical team” from China would hold meetings with local suppliers about the long-stalled nuclear power plant project, reportedly worth up to $8 billion.

The news came after the agreement on China-financed construction of Atucha III plant, which was expected to be announced during a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping after November’s G20 summit in Buenos Aires, had failed to emerge.

The government source said Argentina’s nuclear energy undersecretary, Julian Gadano, and the ambassador to China, Diego Guelar, had met with officials in Beijing in January for talks about the project.

A second government source in Argentina’s foreign ministry said negotiations about the nuclear plant with China were ongoing but added that there had been no “concrete progress” toward signing a deal.

The construction of Atucha III nuclear plant, if finalized, would be one of the biggest projects financed by Beijing, which has become a key trading partner for Argentina and its biggest non-institutional lender.

The power plant deal was first negotiated under the administration of former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, a left-wing leader who left office in 2015 after striking a number of deals with China.  

Incumbent President Mauricio Macri, like right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro in neighboring Brazil, has taken a tough stance against China, saying he would review some of the deals Fernandez had made with the Asian country.

China’s move to construct nuclear power plant in Argentina is regarded as part of its long-running push to expand ties with South American countries.

The US has so far spared no effort to confront the Chinese influence in its so-called backyard and on other allies across the world.

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The US, which is currently engaged in a massive trade dispute with China, views the vast Asian country as a direct threat to its economic dominance and has expressed pessimism about Xi’s infrastructure plan.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has imposed steep tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods and threatened to target all Chinese exports out of fear that China’s rise as an exporting powerhouse has hurt US workers and manufacturing. Beijing has responded by imposing tariffs on $110 billion in US products.

Other trade partners of the US, including the European Union, Canada and Mexico, have also retaliated with tit-for-tat tariffs against American products.


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