Chile on the lookout for investment funds

Updated: 2015-05-28 22:49

By LI WENFANG in Guangzhou(China Daily Latin America)

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Chile's infrastructure sector is eager to receive Chinese investment to help fund $58 billion needed to upgrade facilities within five years, said Sergio Torretti Costa, vice-president of the Chilean Chamber of Construction.

The amount, including those for roads, ports, railway and bridges, is the "minimum level needed" for the projects, he said, adding that infrastructure improving is a priority in Chile's development.

Chile on the lookout for investment funds

"We expect Chinese investment in the infrastructure in Chile to increase," Torretti said. "We would like that to happen." Spain has been Chile's largest foreign investor in infrastructure development.

As part of a 30-member Chilean Chamber of Construction delegation, Torretti visited Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing last month to explore opportunities for cooperation and to visit Chinese suppliers of building materials.

"We are trying to learn from the experience of China, including the great growth in infrastructure," he said.

At least four times in the past, chamber delegations have visited China, but this visit is the first serious attempt to attract Chinese infrastructure investment.

"During our visit to China, we met the Chilean ambassador in Beijing, Jorge Heine, and we agreed on working together, contacting possible Chinese investors during China's Premier's visit to our country.

"We are more optimistic due to both the Chilean government and the Chilean Chamber of Construction having the same interest regarding a major advance and development of Chinese investment in our country, and turning different initiatives into reality."

During the China-Latin America summit in July last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping said collaboration between China and Latin American and Caribbean countries should focus on energy and resources, infrastructure building, agriculture, manufacturing, scientific and technological innovation, and information technologies.

China will launch the $10 billion Special Loans for Chinese- Latin American and Caribbean Infrastructure and, on this basis, increase the credit line to $20 billion.

In March, Chinese ambassador to Chile Li Baorong attended a seminar on the potential of Chinese investment in Chile's infrastructure.

"We have seen increasing interest from many Chinese companies in this sector," said Hernan Andres Jaramillo Soto, director of ProChile Guangzhou.

In February, China Harbor Engineering Co signed the master contract for the San Antonio Wharf expansion project, which is a spot exchange construction contracting project in Chile. It is the company's second port project in Chile, after one at the Port of San Vicente.

"This wharf is the largest port in Chile," The company's website said. "After the expansion, it will greatly increase the cargo throughput and promote the economic development of Chile."

Chile has good experience in public-private partnership in building infrastructure, with public investment accounting for about 15 percent of the total, Torretti said.

The chamber is one of the most influential business associations, with 2,800 members.

"We need to explain to Chinese investors how our system works," Torretti said.

Chile's construction sector has received increasing supplies of China-made building materials, including glass, windows, kitchen tables, bathtubs, tiles, carpets, floors and electrical products, which make a large proportion of those supplies in Chile.

"Chinese products were not the best at the beginning but they are now at the top level," he said.

His delegation tried to find new Chinese suppliers and materials with new technology, including at the China Import and Export Fair.

"During our visit to China, there was business that has been concreted and we can see a high interest in increasing the use of Chinese products and technology for housing and infrastructure," Torretti said.

Earthquake-resistant building technology, in which Chile has rich expertise, is another area for collaboration with China, Torretti said.

Ren Yue contributed to this story.