[SatNews] Argentina's Congress has approved the installation of a Chinese satellite tracking station in the South American country's Patagonia region.
The measure passed in the lower house with 133 votes in favor and 107 against. Opposition lawmakers questioned the possible military use of the base and a tax exemption that would benefit the station for 50 years. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's government has said the project is part of China's plans to reach the moon in 2020. The satellite station will be used for monitoring and downloading data through an antenna with a 35 meters in diameter and is expected to cost approximately US$300 million and will be operational in 2016.
Argentina will be able to access the antenna at least 10 percent of the time to develop research projects under a deal between the two countries. Argentina launched its first domestically built communications satellite last year, that being the ARSAT-1 satellite.
Jiang Shixue, a professor of Latin American studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the deal would boost cooperation between China and Argentina. "It means that the cooperation between the two nations is not confined only to transactions of agricultural products, but other hi-tech areas as well," Jiang said.
Bilateral trade between the two nations reached nearly US$17 billion in 2013 and Argentina is a key exporter of grain to China. China has been cooperating with Argentina on space and high technology overseas in recent years.
In 2011, the construction of a Chinese ground station on a farm near Dongara in Western Australia was approved.