New Chilean ambassador to promote tourism, investment with China

Updated: 2014-08-11 03:26

By Zhang Yuchen in Beijing (China Daily USA)

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New Chilean ambassador to promote tourism, investment with China

Chile's new ambassador to China Jorge Heine [Photo provided to China Daily]

Chile's new ambassador to China will seek greater investment and attract more tourists from the world's second-largest economy. According to Finance Daily, one of Chile's major financial newspapers, Ambassador Jorge Heine, who calls China a "very fashionable" country, expects that during his time in the country he will enhance Chile's national image.

"Everybody wants a cord of relation with China because of its role as a major emerging power and the largest trading partner of Chile," he said. The ambassador noted that China is undergoing a process of change and has had an annual growth rate of around 10 percent over the past 30 years. Now its economic growth rises by about 7 percent.

"It is an economy in transformation in which Chile wants a greater presence as it does in the Asia-Pacific region in general," said Heine.

Heine said one of his major tasks is boosting and diversifying trade between the two countries, as it is currently dominated by copper and raw materials which account for about 85 percent of the total trade volume. Chile is the largest producer and exporter and China is the largest importer and consumer. China will continue to need copper for its massive urbanization process as hundreds of millions of farmers flow into its cities. But Chile has to seek other fields for trade, such as food, where it has already made much progress.

"Chile is the largest exporter of grapes, apples, blueberries and cherries to China, and the second-largest exporter of kiwifruit and plums," said Heine. He also said the development potential remains enormous. In any case, the big challenge for Heine is to encourage investment. There is no correspondence between the huge volume of bilateral trade - $33 billion in 2013 - and investments which amount to about $300 million annually.

Chile emphasizes two investment areas, infrastructure and energy, as the South American countries seek to develop the wind and solar-energy sectors in which China has some of the leading companies in the world. Looking to infrastructure, for instance, Chinese companies could establish projects to revive the Chilean railway network, which pioneered the world in the 19th century, but fell into disuse since the 1980s. "China has bullet trains but I do not know if Chile has the same level of population density that is necessary for them. Perhaps just the mini-bullet train," said Heine.

He said he also hopes to give a boost to Chinese tourism to Chile, despite the long distances and the lack of direct flights. One hundred million Chinese people travel abroad every year and it is estimated that 500 million will travel out of China in coming years. "Chile has many attractions, very attractive scenery in its landscape," said Heine. He expects to travel around China and not be cooped up in an office to better understand the Asian giant.

Asia will nearly double its share of global GDP (at market exchange rates) from 27 percent in 2010 to 51 percent by 2050, according to Asia Development Bank Report. "Either we get on that fast-speeding car or we'll be shut out of the tremendous growth," said Heine. "Sometimes this process is not fully understood, as many people are still looking to the US and Western Europe." Heine has also served as Chile's ambassador to South Africa and India.

Currently one of his tasks is to prepare for the visit of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet who will attend the annual APEC summit in November.