China, Uruguay sign some $530 mln in business deals

* Chinese firms to buy soybeans, wool and dairy products

* Uruguay was second Latin America stop on Xi’s tour

* China-Latin America trade $180 billion in 2010 (Recasts after meetings, adds quotes)

MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) – Chinese companies signed deals to buy nearly $530 million in Uruguayan soy, wool, dairy products and other goods Wednesday during a visit to the South American country by Vice President Xi Jinping.

Xi, tipped to succeed Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2013, vowed to strengthen economic ties with the small agricultural nation, which saw its exports to China jump almost 60 percent to $373 million last year.

“China’s government is ready to work jointly with Uruguay to further deepen our relations of friendship and cooperation,” Xi said after meeting Uruguay’s leftist president, Jose Mujica.

The two met before government and company officials signed commercial agreements including the purchase of $250 million in Uruguayan soybeans.

Uruguay’s soy output has grown fast in recent years and the oilseed accounts for a large part of Uruguay’s exports to the Asian country.

The Uruguayan foreign minister earlier put a slightly lower figure of $520 million on the value of the deals. Other accords signed Wednesday related to science and technology cooperation, tourism and culture.

Xi arrived in the South American country from Cuba, where he signed a letter of intent to modernize an oil refinery and extend new lines of credit.

He was due to leave Uruguay Thursday for Chile, the world’s top copper producer.

Chinese economic interaction with Latin America is booming and its trade with the region totaled $180 billion last year, up 50 percent from 2009, according to the official Chinese news agency Xinhua.

China is Uruguay’s third-largest trade partner after its neighbors Brazil and Argentina, and trade between the two countries reached almost $1.5 billion last year, according to official data.

Uruguay imported $1.12 billion in Chinese goods including car parts in 2010, according to the data. Imports from China rose 42 percent from 2009.