Beijing – China and Spain on Wednesday pledged to re-balance trade ties during President Xi Jinping's state visit, as Madrid complains of a "chronic deficit" with Beijing. While Spanish exports to China increased last year by 28.3 percent, it still has a trade deficit of 19.4 billion euros ($22.1 billion), a 2.3 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Spanish foreign ministry.
"Both sides agree to increase economic openness and boost commercial exchanges in such manner that these will be more balanced and extend to new sectors," the two countries said in a joint statement.
Some 600 Spanish firms are present in China, mainly small companies, although multinationals such as Telefonica, Zara-owner Inditex and major banks like Santander and BBVA also operate in the country.
The two countries also agreed to boost cooperation between Chinese and Spanish scientists in the field of advanced materials, as Beijing shifts its economy towards competitive, high-end industries.
Examples of such materials include scratch-resistant glass for smartphone screens or composites used in planes that make them lighter and more fuel efficient.
They also agreed to further open up the lucrative Chinese market to Spanish grapes and its treasured "jamon" cured ham, which is very popular in the Asian country.
Prior to Xi's visit, Spain had said it would not sign on to China's ambitious "One Belt, One Road" initiative that seeks to better link Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks.
In Europe, countries such as Poland and Greece have signed but the project has created considerable anxiety that it masks an attempted Beijing influence grab.
Spain has justified its refusal to sign on by saying it prefers to work with the European Union which in September presented its own plans to develop a parallel network of infrastructure to connect it to Asia.
In the joint statement, both countries highlighted the importance of China's initiative. They said they would work to "identify synergies" between the Chinese and EU plans in terms of punctual business and investment projects.