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China: Wen Jiabao Signs Trade Agreements With Brazil; Time Investigates the Cult of Apple

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Nokia, Starwood, and Marriott also make the news.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL China and Brazil announced on Thursday that they had signed a series of trade agreements aimed at increasing investment and trade flows

The deals proposed to boost cross-country trade in the mining, industrial, aviation, and infrastructure sectors were signed by President Dilma V. Rousseff of Brazil and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao at the United Nations Rio+20 sustainable development summit.

One clear beneficiary of the deals is Brazilian airplane producer Embraer (ERJ). Previously blocked from making planes in the Middle Kingdom, Embraer, a global leader in regional planes manufacturing, can now assemble jets in China.

Wen and Rousseff also reached an agreement to set up local currency swaps of up to about $30 billion between the two countries, which "will allow the countries to boost financial reserves, which is useful at a time of financial stress," said Brazilian finance minister Guido Mantega.

Here is the rest of this week's top China business news:
Apple (AAPL): The relationship between Apple and China was spotlighted this week in a Time cover story. Much like its legions of fans state-side, Apple has cultivated a strong and intensely loyal following in China "without really trying," says Time's Beijing Bureau Chief Hannah Beech.

"People in China buy Apple because it symbolizes an individualistic Western lifestyle," says Yang Xi, a 29-year-old in Beijing who owns two Apple laptops, seven different iPods, an iPhone, and an iPad. "In China, there are so many people. We like the idea of something that makes you special, that you can make your own."

In other Apple news, the Cupertino, California-based company is in negotiations with China Unicom (CHU) to extend their partnership since their three-year deal signed in June 2009 will expire soon. China Unicom was Apple's first carrier in China, with China Telecom (CHA) coming on board earlier in March. China Mobile (CHL) remains the only big holdout.

Hotel Chains: Starwood (HOT) is looking to expand its presence in the Middle Kingdom, having announced plans to open 100 new hotels, with the bulk of them to be built in smaller cities in China.

"China presents itself as a major growth opportunity for Starwood and we look to be cutting edge for these consumers," Starwood finance chief Vasant Prabhu told the Wall Street Journal, adding that 40 of the hotels will fall under its Sheraton brand.

Meanwhile, competitor Marriott (MAR) also made a similar but splashier announcement, saying that it will invest $2 billion over the next three years to open new hotels all across the world. The Bethesda, Maryland-based company currently has 54 hotels in China, and plans to double that number with its latest capital investment.

Both Starwood and Marriott are undoubtedly hungrily eyeing the growing Chinese tourism pie, with the country's combined and international tourism revenue calculated to go up 14% a year for the next eight years, which puts the tourism market worth at about $860 billion, the Boston Consulting Group notes.

Nokia (NOK): Minyanville's own Michael Comeau has written about the woes of Nokia, what with its diminishing smartphone market share and the announcement of job cuts. Nonetheless, the Finnish telecommunications giant has reaffirmed its commitment to China.

"The company has made a decision to continue investing heavily in Asia in terms of product development," President of Nokia's Asia-Pacific operations Olivier Puech told the Wall Street Journal. "We will not compromise our commitment to China," he said on the sidelines of the Mobile Asia Expo, which opened in Shanghai.

Puech noted that in China, the ecosystem for the Windows Phone (MSFT) system, which Nokia smartphones run on, has grown tremendously, with many local app developers pushing out Windows-compatible apps. This, he believes, would help Nokia in its bid to challenge the iPhone and Android (GOOG)-based phones.

Twitter: @sterlingwong
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