Reuters International

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski poses for a photo after exercising at the Government Palace in Lima, Peru, August 4, 2016. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo


By Marco Aquino

LIMA (Reuters) - Pedro Pablo Kuczynski will set off on his first trip abroad as Peru's new president with one clear goal.

"We're going to look for investors," Kuczynski said Friday of his stay next week in China, Peru's top trade partner.

Kuczynski, a 77-year-old former investment banker who spent years working in the United States, announced his plan to visit China before any other country within hours of winning June's presidential election. He departs on Saturday.

China already invests heavily in Peru. Between 2013 and 2015 Chinese companies invested more than $13 billion, snapping up oil and fishmeal assets and building two huge copper projects that have buoyed growth in the wake of the commodities bust.

But Kuczynski, with an eye on lacklustre domestic demand and a three-year slump in private investments, wants more.

"We're very interested in industrialising our minerals, in opening new markets for our exports," Kuczynski said in a press conference.

Armed with four ministers, more than a dozen business leaders and his off-the-cuff sense of humour, Kuczynski will pitch refineries, railways and ports to Chinese investors during his visit, the longest of any recent Peruvian president in the Asian powerhouse.

The visit underscores China's growing influence in Peru, which is on track to become the world's second biggest copper producer this year thanks to surging output from the $7.4 billion Chinese-owned mine Las Bambas. Chinese cars rove the streets of Lima, restaurants accept Chinese credit cards and many Chinese tourists no longer need visas to visit Peru.

Looking ahead, Kuczynski sees Chinese investments helping Peru become a regional refining hub that would help Peru wring more value from its exports, which peaked in 2012 before dropping by nearly a third to $34 billion in 2015 in the wake of the commodities bust.

Reviving Peru's shuttered polymetallic smelter La Oroya is on the table, as is building a new refinery from scratch, Kuczynski has said.

"The Chinese today have a lot of liquidity for financing big projects," Finance Minister Alfredo Thorne said on local broadcaster RPP.

An injection of Chinese capital could help Kuczynski fulfil his promises of narrowing the fiscal deficit while ensuring every town in Peru has running water.

Kuczynski will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping Tuesday to sign agreements aimed at bolstering the free trade agreement the two countries implemented in 2010, according to the foreign affairs ministry.

The following week Kuczynski will visit the United States.

(Reporting By Marco Aquino, Writing By Mitra Taj; Editing by David Gregorio)


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