Nicaragua and China on Monday formally started trading under a new free trade agreement.
Allowing the Central American country to export some 71% of its products into the largest Asian market and free of tariffs.
The exports will include meat and seafood, such as fish, shrimp, lobsters and sea cucumber, as well as sugar, peanuts and rum, state media reported. Among non-food items included in the agreement are leather, charcoal and wood, and automobile parts.
The agreement excludes Chinese goods that could be problematic for the key Nicaraguan industries, such as meat and its offal, coffee, rice and sugar.
President Daniel Ortega, who has governed Nicaragua for the past 17 years, defying protests and cracking down on dissent, called it “the best Christmas present” during his speech on Dec. 22.
“Our brothers are here to shake hands, not to attack us,” he said. “Let the imperialists of the land learn how to govern, how to work for peace.”
Nicaragua ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan at the end of 2021 and has since increasingly turned to China.
The agreement was signed on Oct. 31 in a virtual meeting and few additional details have been made public since.
Ortega’s son, Laureano Ortega, an adviser to the president who oversees the country’s relations with China and Russia, at the time said he was convinced the trade agreement would “generate economic and social benefits for Nicaraguan families, new investments and jobs, and transfer technology from China to Nicaragua.”