Expansion of free trade possible on Chile visit

Updated: 2015-05-25 04:07

By ZHANG YUNBI(China Daily)

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With Premier Li Keqiang set to begin his trip to Chile, the prospect of upgrading the free trade agreement to cover more products and tax cuts is something senior officials are looking for.

In Chile, the fourth and last stop on a South American visit that also took the premier to Brazil, Colombia and Peru from May 18 to 26, Li will hold talks with President Michelle Bachelet, attend a signing ceremony for cooperative pacts, and meet the media in a joint press conference in the capital city of Santiago.

Both leaders will witness agreements on intergovernmental and enterprise cooperation, politics, economy, trade, finance, culture, science and technology.

Li also will attend the opening ceremony of the Economy and Trade Seminar marking the 45th anniversary of the establishment of China-Chile diplomatic relations and the seventh meeting of the China-Chile Business Council.

The premier will deliver a key speech at the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Chile is the first country in Latin America to sign a free trade agreement with China.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the signing of the free trade agreement between the two countries.

Now Chile is China's third-largest trading partner, second-largest source of imports and third-largest export market in Latin America. In 2014, bilateral trade volume reached $34.1 billion.

Assistant Commerce Minister Tong Daochi said that since the implementation of the China-Chile FTA, bilateral trade "has increased by five times, which has injected great vitality into the development of bilateral economic and trade relations".

As estimated by Tong, during the visit the two sides will "discuss further completing the construction" of the free trade area so as to "comprehensively deepen bilateral economic and trade relations and bring more benefits to enterprises and consumers of both countries".

Chinese Ambassador to Chile Li Baorong said the FTA has additionally diversified trade, with an accompanying increase in the number of Chinese automobiles entering the Chilean market.

Chile is now China's leading provider of bulk wine and the third-largest supplier of bottled wine, as "China imports 98 percent of its blueberries from Chile, 80 percent of its cherries and 50 percent of its apples", the envoy observed.

China Construction Bank, one of China's largest banking institutions, will open its first branch in Chile this year, leading to greater financial cooperation, he said.

The ambassador noted that China-Chile cooperation also has led to more Chinese investment in areas such as renewable energy, infrastructure, mining, agriculture and telecommunications.

Xu Shicheng, a research fellow in Latin American studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, observed that Li arrives at a time that Latin American countries "are expected to increase added values of their products for exports instead of relying on exports of raw materials".

Cooperation with China will boost the production capacity of the local manufacturing sector, and future bilateral trade will be expanded through cooperation in regard to production capacity and investment, Xu said.

Friendship between the two countries is profound, as Chile is the first country in South America to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Chile, and also the "Year of Chinese Culture" in Chile.

Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Chao noted that China and Chile have established a strategic partnership, and "the current bilateral relations are on the fast track of all-round development".

"The two sides enjoy close high-level exchanges and firmly support each other on issues concerning each other's core interests," he said.

Xinhua contributed to this story.