Hundreds of business leaders and politicians from China and Latin America are in Punta del Este, Uruguay. They’re meeting to discuss agribusiness, renewable energy and regional issues that might provide trade opportunities.

CGTN’s Joel Richards has this report on the conference from Punta del Este.

The Uruguayan coastal resort of Punta del Este is a chic world-famous summer destination. This week the focus is on ties with China. On the agenda at the China and Latin American and Caribbean business conference – a series of meetings and potential deals in a number of areas including agribusiness and renewable energy.

Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez opened this session speaking about the need for a ‘win win’ relationship between the region and China. Distance and cultural barriers may be obstacles, he said, but China is vital to this region’s economy.

“Today, China is the champion of world trade and a motor of global economic growth,” Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez said.

Uruguay has a population of around 3.5 million people, but 17 million hectares of land suitable for farming. 80 percent of its exports are related to the agricultural sector, and it’s here where Uruguay is looking to expand its relationship with China.

At the agriculture research institute known as INIA, investigators have begun developing a new type of high-protein soy. The genetic material is from China – part of an agreement between the countries signed six months ago.

“This project is aimed to develop varieties of soy adapted to grow in our conditions. But it is soy that is for human consumption. The aim is to provide for the Chinese market, ” INIA Chief Investigator Victoria Bonnecarrere said.

The process of developing the soy could take up to 10 years, though China and Uruguay are sharing technology that could reduce that time frame.

Uruguay has been chosen for this project because unlike larger soy exporters, it does not use transgenic soybeans. INIA President Jose Luis Repetto said this agreement represents an important landmark for the country.

“This is a shift in the production model. We are looking to sell better quality rather than just a larger quantity. This is a product that adds value through the technology already included – not in the process of harvesting but in the planting itself,” INIA President Jose Luis Repetto said.

Uruguay is also working to improve the quality of other exports. On Friday, at the conference, China and Uruguay signed a new deal for tracking beef shipments. Uruguay’s agricultural minister said half of the country’s beef is sold to China.

“20 days ago China’s government said that China’s supply of goods in the future must be ‘green’, safe, and traceable. It has also singled out Uruguay as a country of traceability with beef, so we are earning prestige,” Uruguayan Minister of Agriculture Tabare Aguerre said.

This conference continues over the weekend – providing more time for Uruguay, and the region, to cement ties with China.