efe-epaBy Paula Escalada Medrano Shanghai, China

Expanding the range of exports to include value-added products is the main challenge and the priority for Peru in its foreign trade, Edgar Vasquez, the minister of foreign trade in the Latin American country, told EFE during a China visit.

"The challenge for Peru is diversifying our export basket in China, which (currently) mainly consists of minerals and fish meal," said the minister, who is in Shanghai to take part in the China International Import Expo, where Peru figures as one of the guest countries.

Vasquez said although the export of value-added products had grown in recent years, it was still far from sufficient and the Andean country had a "great manufacturing potential" in chemicals and machinery, in which Lima would "concentrate its efforts in the next few years”.

According to the Peruvian ministry of foreign trade and tourism, the bilateral trade between China and Peru tripled in the last 10 years, reaching a record of $23.27 billion in 2018, a 14 percent growth year-on-year.

Around 81.7 percent of the total Peruvian exports to China is made up of just two products: copper and fish meal, which explains Lima's focus on selling different products to the Asian giant, the largest trading partner of Peru since 2014.

Vasquez is heading a trade delegation to China which includes representatives of 16 companies that are trying to enter or consolidate in the Chinese market through the CIIE - the pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping for opening the local markets to the world.

The event kicked off on Tuesday and is set to last until Sunday.

"China is the world's biggest market, and the (Chinese) government's attempt to boost domestic demand would generate multiple windows of opportunity for Peru," the minister said.

According to Vasquez, the Latin American country being invited as a guest of honor at CIII is an "example of great ties” as the two sides have signed a free trade agreement for various products.

He also stressed that "nearly 10 percent of the Peruvian population has Chinese origins”.

Peru is one of the participants in China's infrastructure mega-project Belt and Road Initiative.

The minister said the BRI collaboration was actively on display in projects such as the agreement between Chinese state-owned Cosco Shipping Ports and Peruvian mining firm Volcan for establishing the multipurpose port terminal in the city of Chancay, which aims to convert Peru into a major port-logistics center.

“Connectivity is one of our main reasons for participating in the BRI. We consider it important to expand cooperation and stronger ties, especially in connectivity and logistics," Vasquez emphasized. EFE-EPA