Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Monday proposed a possible free trade pact between the Asian powerhouse and South American nations that make up the Mercosur regional trade bloc.
"We should conduct feasibility studies on the possibility of a free trade deal," said Wen, flanked by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez in a videoconference with regional leaders, during a visit to Buenos Aires.
"China is prepared to enter into ministerial-level talks with Mercosur nations," he said in the videoconference that included Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, noting that China is already Mercosur's second-biggest trade partner.
Paraguay is also part of the bloc but has no diplomatic ties with China because it recognizes Taiwan, which Beijing considers a rebel province. On Sunday, Mercosur suspended Paraguay's membership after the speedy impeachment and ouster last week of its president, Fernando Lugo.
In 2011, China's exports to the Mercosur, South America's largest trading bloc, totaled $48.45 billion, up 34 percent from the previous year, while imports from Mercosur reached $51.03 billion, according to Argentine government figures.
Beijing wishes to double this trade by 2016, said Wen.
Wen has already stopped in Brazil and Uruguay during a four-nation tour of South America that wraps up later this week in Chile.