BEIJING - Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Uruguyan counterpart Luis Lacalle Pou agreed on Wednesday to upgrade ties and develop relations "into a model of solidarity and cooperation" during a meeting in Beijing, state media Xinhua reported.

"At present, deepening bilateral ties is increasingly becoming the consensus in our two countries," Xi said during a meeting with Lacalle Pou at the Great Hall of the People, adding: "I am pleased to announce with you... the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership."

The announcement elevates Uruguay's ties with China to an equal footing with Brazil and Argentina, two other members of the Mercosur trade bloc.

For years, China has sought closer ties with the emerging markets of South America, in large part to secure raw materials including grains and oils for its own economy. But the world's second-largest economy is also a major investor and has offered tariff-free access to its huge consumer market to four states.

Lacalle Pou in 2021 first proposed a free trade agreement with China to secure similar opportunities for its exporters as those enjoyed by Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru, and to boost its exports of raw materials, industrial goods and technology, but faces opposition from other members of the Mercosur bloc who want to settle an FTA with Europe instead.

(Reporting by Joe Cash and Ryan Woo; Editing by Toby Chopra and Raju Gopalakrishnan)