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China surpassing US as top Venezuelan trade partner

The Americas Post - Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is Hugo Chavez' new best friend.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claimed this week that China may replace the U.S. as Venezuela’s leading trade partner, thanks to a strategic alliance between those two nations.

Chavez said that commerce between Venezuela and China has reached $20 billion this year, up from $600 million a decade ago, and is now growing by $2 billion per year.

Trade between the United States and Venezuela is running $33.5 billion so far this year, according to the U.S. Dept of Commerce.

Chavez has always been at odds with Washington, and trade between the two neighbors is expected to remain stagnant until a long-running diplomatic conflict is resolved.  The U.S. embassy in Caracas has not had an ambassador since July 2010, when Chavez rejected U.S. nominee Larry Palmer, accusing him of disrespect towards his government.  Washington revoked the visa of the Venezuelan ambassador in retaliation.  Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday that diplomatic relations with the United States are frozen and he sees no immediate solution to the dispute.

Chavez, a frequent critic of U.S. President Barack Obama, says growing ties with China are crucial for his country’s development.

“I believe it’s possible … not just in Venezuela, but also in Latin America,” said Chavez, speaking at a news conference.

China has become Venezuela’s largest foreign lender in recent years.  Last month, Chinese officials signed $6 billion in new loans to improve the South American country’s oil industry.  The Asian giant had already promised over $32 billion in loans. Venezuela, in turn, is ramping up oil shipments to China.

The injection of Chinese cash has helped Chavez  boost spending ahead of next year’s presidential election.

The United States remains the main consumer of Venezuelan oil.