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Chile hopes to increase Chinese investment

By Zhang Yunbi  (China Daily)

14:02, June 26, 2012

Chile is eager to boost bilateral investment and trade of agricultural products with China to diversify bilateral economic cooperation, Chilean Ambassador to China Luis Schmidt said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.

Schmidt has started contacting senior officials from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Agriculture, in preparation for Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Chile, which was to begin late on Monday.

China and Chile established diplomatic relations in 1970, making Chile the first South American country to form diplomatic ties with China.

The ambassador said the relationship is a "long tradition" and very strong in trade cooperation. "But we want to elevate it with this visit," he said.

In 2011, China was Chile's largest export market and second-largest import source. China is also one of Chile's major sources of trade surplus, according to an annual report from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

Statistics provided by Chilean customs show that China-Chile bilateral trade in 2011 reached $29.03 billion, a year-on-year increase of 17.4 percent.

The China-Chile bilateral free trade agreement was signed in 2005, and Schmidt said the FTA has proved a success.

"At the beginning of the negotiation of the FTA, a lot of people in my country were very afraid about that, because they feared that the textile, shoes and plastic industries would disappear with the signing of the agreement," Schmidt said.

In the first two years of the FTA, bilateral trade witnessed a year-on-year increase of 59 and 33 percent respectively, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

"I hope we can finally obtain the good result (and) our leaders announce that we have reached an agreement in the case of investment for the FTA," he said.

Since January 2009, both countries have made rounds of negotiations on investment for the bilateral free trade zone.

Copper, minerals and paper pulp topped Chile's exports to China in 2011 and the first quarter this year, and Schmidt said Chile is now placing its food sectors, including fresh fruits, wine and salmon, among its top priorities to promote in China.

"During Chinese New Year, 60 percent of our total cherry production is selling in China, because you like it a lot during that time," Schmidt said, adding that with the exports growing, the price declined and benefited the Chinese public.

Chile is one of the biggest producers of blueberries in the world, and both countries signed an agreement in March to boost blueberry imports from Chile to lower the price in China, the ambassador said.

Along with their Chilean counterparts, Chinese agriculture authorities have agreed to introduce China's techniques into Chile and set up farms in the country, Schmidt said.

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