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China, Chile seek to upgrade FTA

Hits:  UpdateTime:2016-11-24 14:11:25

China and Chile agreed to begin negotiations on deepening

a free trade agreement signed in 2005, as President Xi

Jinping made his first state visit to the Latin American country.

The agreement was among the 12 cooperative documents

signed on Tuesday to enhance cooperation in areas including

astronomy, finance, education, agriculture and trade.

"An upgrade of the FTA between Chile and China will give

two-way economic and trade cooperation a strong boost,"

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said on Tuesday while

meeting with Xi.

Chile welcomes Chinese enterprises to increase their

investments in the Latin American country, she said, adding

that her country is willing to join the China-led Asian

Infrastructure Investment Bank as soon as possible.

The agreements also include jointly establishing and

operating an astronomy base in Chile and setting up a

Chinese culture center in Santiago.

Xi said after the signing ceremony that he had invited

Bachelet to make a state visit to China next year, as the two

countries move forward to boost mutual political trust and

enhance high-level exchanges.

"Chile is close to China in the countries' alphabetic rank, and

we are true neighbors," he said.

China has never changed its confidence in the potential for

Latin America's development, Xi said, adding that Beijing firmly

supports Latin American countries' efforts to safeguard

regional peace and unity.

Bachelet said the agreements will bring more practical cooperation

to the two countries.

Thanks to the FTA, as much as 97 percent of Chile's exports

to China are free of tariffs now, she said.

In June, China Construction Bank, one of China's largest

banking institutions, opened a branch in Santiago, which is

the first clearing bank for renminbi transactions in South America.

The bank will facilitate Chinese financing for Chilean projects,

Bachelet said.

Chile was the first Latin American country to sign a bilateral

free trade agreement with China. In 2014, bilateral trade

volume reached $34.15 billion, almost five times the amount

at the time the agreement was signed.

China, which was Chile's 25th-largest trading partner before

the FTA agreement, is now its biggest trade partner.

Last year, although overall trade volume declined to $31.9

billion because of the global economic downturn, Chile's

exports to China still accounted for more than one-fourth of its total.

Liu Rutao, the economic and commercial counselor of the

Chinese embassy in Chile, highlighted the economic and

trade cooperation between the two countries.

A new level of free trade will introduce e-commerce, trade

in services and more scientific inspection and quarantine

into the traditionally commodity-heavy trade, Liu said.

Xu Shicheng, a senior researcher of Latin American studies

at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the

Chinese and Chilean economies are highly complementary,

providing much opportunity for bilateral cooperation.

China has advantages in such areas as infrastructure

construction capacity, manufacturing, steel production and

equipment, which are needed in many Latin American

countries, including Chile, he said.


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