Congo leader to visit China this week, minerals trade deal signing expected

Burundi hosts peace summit on conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo, Great Lakes region

BEIJING (Reuters) -The president of minerals-rich Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, will visit China from May 24 to 29 and is expected to meet President Xi Jinping to review and sign several key trade deals.

A meeting would pave the way for the two countries to formally overhaul and seal a $6 billion infrastructure-for-minerals deal with Chinese investors. The visit was announced by the Chinese foreign ministry on Monday.

Congo government spokesman Patrick Muyaya told Reuters later on Monday the visit will strengthen cooperation between the two countries.

"We want to build new relations with China, on sound foundations," Muyaya said.

Tshisekedi instructed his government at a cabinet meeting on May 19 to move ahead with talks on the deal with Chinese counterparts after the government and other stakeholders "consolidated their position", a government statement said.

He informed cabinet members that a task force looking at the deal had submitted its conclusions, enabling discussions with Chinese partners to commence in the coming days.

Congo's government is seeking to "rebalance" the $6 billion infrastructure-for-minerals signed by a previous administration. It has said terms of the deal were unfavorable to Congo.

The government said its Chinese counterparts have not met their end of the bargain which provided for infrastructure investments in exchange for copper and cobalt.

Congo is the world's largest producer of battery material cobalt.

During the visit to China, the two heads of state will hold talks and attend the signing ceremony of cooperation documents together, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

"The Democratic Republic of Congo is an important country in Africa, and the friendship between China and the Democratic Republic of Congo has a long history," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular press briefing.

"Both sides have always supported each other on issues related to each other's core interests and major concerns. In recent years, political mutual trust between China and the Democratic Republic of Congo has been continuously deepening, and practical cooperation has yielded fruitful results," Mao added.

Tshisekedi will also meet Premier Li Qiang and Zhao Leji, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China.

(Reporting by Liz Lee; additional reporting by Ange Kasongo and Sonia Rolley Writing by Bernard Orr; Editing by Kim Coghill, William Maclean and Richard Chang)