Beijing, July 3 (IANS) Cuban President Raul Castro will begin a state visit to China Wednesday, during which he will sign a number of deals that will help accelerate Cuba's economic reforms, a Chinese daily said Tuesday.
Castro will visit China for four days at the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin was quoted as saying by China Daily.
China attaches great importance to this visit, during which Castro will attend a series of state activities with Hu, he said.
During his last two visits to China in 1997 and 2005, Castro studied China's economic reforms.
Cuba's reforms - approved at a Cuban Communist Party congress in April 2011 - have revitalised the country's economy by loosening the government's grip on property ownership and allowing small private businesses, Yang Jianmin, an expert on Cuban studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told China Daily.
Trade between Beijing and Havana rose from $590 million in 2004 to $1.8 billion in 2010. China became Cuba's second-largest trading partner after Venezuela.
But the trade is dominated by China's exports to Cuba. According to China's ministry of commerce, Beijing imports sugar and nickel and exports electronic equipment to Havana.
Both countries have great potential to cooperate in the fields of agriculture, energy and tourism, said Niu Haibin, a Latin American studies researcher with the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.
Raul Castro and his delegation, including Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, will also visit Vietnam, the Prensa Latina news agency reported.
Cuba established diplomatic relations with China and Vietnam in 1960.
Trade between Cuba and Vietnam reached $269 million in 2010.