Cuba’s Raul Castro visiting trading partner China

Jul 4, 2012, 2:46 PM

BEIJING (AP) – Cuban leader Raul Castro is in China for talks with President Hu Jintao and other leaders, his first visit to his country’s key trading partner since taking office as president.

Castro arrived Wednesday for a four-day visit. Cuban state media said he was accompanied by senior Cabinet official Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez. Neither side has said what issues are to be discussed.

Castro visited Vietnam and China while defense minister, a post he held from 1959 until he replaced his older brother Fidel as president in 2008. He is to visit Vietnam again after leaving China.

While the three nations are among the last Communist-ruled countries in the world, China has opened broadly to private business and has thrived economically while Cuba remains largely poor. During a 1997 trip to China, Raul Castro spoke approvingly of its mixture of socialism and market liberalization.

Cuba is China’s biggest commercial partner in the Caribbean. Beijing helped prop up the Cuban economy after the withdrawal of Russian aid in the 1990s. Bilateral trade totaled $1.8 billion in 2010, state-run website Cubadebate said.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Cuba’s Raul Castro visiting trading partner China