Chinese president Xi Jinping to visit Panama in December
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Chinese president Xi Jinping to visit Panama in December

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang announced the planned visit on Friday. The Panamanian presidency had declared the invitation a day earlier, announcing that Xi and Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela plan to sign about 20 agreements in areas such as commerce, technology and infrastructure. The visit comes as the two countries have been deepening diplomatic and trade relations since Panama broke off ties with Taiwan, a strategic US partner, and opened its embassy in China last year. In July, the countries opened free trade talks in what can further help Beijing increase its economic reach to the greater Latin American economic scene and rival US trade monopoly. Washington has expressed concern over China’s growing Latin American ties, recalling top diplomats from Panama, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador in September for cutting ties with Taiwan. On Tuesday, Xi also made a visit to the Philippines, another long-time US ally. The Chinese leader described his visit as "milestone", which is seen as yet another inroad into regions known to be traditionally dominated by US influence. Beijing and Washington have been at odds over geopolitical and trade relations in recent years.  The US has been taking sides with several of China’s neighbors in their territorial disputes against the country in a bid to dominate the Asia-Pacific and contain Chinese influence in the region. The US has also been building up its military presence in the South China Sea in what China has described as an instance of meddling, expanding defensive capabilities in response. The two countries are locked in a major trade dispute after US President Donald Trump imposed hefty tariffs on Chinese imports in April. Beijing responded by imposing its own tariffs on US products, effectively halting its purchase of key US agricultural exports. The Sino-US dispute has raised concerns over the stability of the global economy.

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