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Japan’s Abe calls Latin America ‘indispensable partner’

SÃO PAULO, Brazil – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hailed Latin America as an “indispensable partner” Saturday as he wrapped up a swing through the region after sealing a series of deals.

Abe’s five-country tour comes just after China’s President Xi Jinping finished his own visit to the region, which boasts coveted raw materials and, with its emerging economies, a market for exports.

“Latin America has a large presence on the international stage and is an indispensable partner in my vision of diplomacy,” Abe said in a speech in São Paulo.

“With my visit, I want to go one step further and sign an agreement between Japan and Latin America,” he said, adding this marked a “new chapter” in the relationship between the two.

During his speech, Abe recalled the economic and trade ties linking Japan and Latin America, as well as agreements signed during his tour.

On Friday, during a visit to the capital Brasilia where Abe met with President Dilma Rousseff, local state-owned oil giant Petrobras signed a loan of $500 million with two Japanese financial institutions, Nippon Export and Investment Insurance and Mizuho Bank for the construction of oil platforms.

Abe, without providing details, said a Japanese company had signed a contract for São Paulo metro construction work.

Brazil is home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, with a population of some 1.8 million people of Japanese descent. About 60 percent live in the southeastern and most developed state of São Paulo.

The first wave of immigrants came to Brazil to escape poverty and to work on coffee plantations following an accord between the two countries.

Abe honored the memory and hard work of these individuals, saying they established themselves well over the course of 100 years of “sweat and tears.”

Abe began his nine-day tour of the region on July 25 in Mexico and then visited Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia and Chile before heading to Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy.

In Chile on Thursday, Abe signed a series of agreements in areas ranging from mining to minimizing damage from earthquakes.

Earlier in Mexico, meanwhile, he struck several energy deals, including one between state oil firm Pemex and Japan’s development bank, and another between Pemex and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation.

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