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Chinese president says Cuba's economic reforms could lead to more trade between nations

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China's President Xi Jinping, center, waves to the press accompanied by Cuba's Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, left, at his arrival at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, Monday, July 21, 2014. Xi Jinping is in Cuba for a two day official visit. (AP Photo/Ladyrene Perez, Cubadebate) (The Associated Press)

Chinese President Xi Jinping says that Cuba's economic reforms could lead to greater commercial ties between the two nations.

Xi's visit to Cuba is part of a nine-day tour of Latin America that has highlighted China's growing ties to the commodities-rich region. He previously visited Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina.

Xi said in a statement reported Tuesday on state website Cubadebate that Cuba "has continued on the road to socialism, firmly guarding state sovereignty while promoting economic growth."

Under Raul Castro, Cuba has decentralized state-owned enterprises, legalized home and used car sales and let hundreds of thousands of people open or work for small businesses.

Xi arrived in Havana Monday and plans to meet with President Raul Castro and see a ballet before traveling to Santiago de Cuba province on Wednesday.