China, Chile seek to up­grade FTA

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By AN BAIJIE in San­ti­ago, Chile an­bai­jie@chi­

China and Chile signed 12 co­op­er­a­tive doc­u­ments on Tues­day to en­hance co­op­er­a­tion in ar­eas in­clud­ing as­tron­omy, finance, ed­u­ca­tion, agri­cul­ture and trade dur­ing Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s state visit.

Ac­cord­ing to the agree­ments and mem­o­randa of un­der­stand­ing, which were signed with Xi and his Chilean coun­ter­part Michelle Bachelet in wit­ness, the two coun­tries agreed to ini­ti­ate ne­go­ti­a­tions on deep­en­ing a free trade agree­ment (FTA) signed in 2005.

The two coun­tries also agreed to jointly es­tab­lish and op­er­ate an astro­nom­i­cal base in Chile.

A Chi­nese cul­ture cen­ter will be set up in San­ti­ago, ac­cord­ing to an­other one of the agree­ments.

Xi said af­ter the sign­ing cer­e­mony that he had in­vited Pres­i­dent Bachelet to pay a state visit to China next year, as the two coun­tries are mov­ing 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 China firmly sup­ports Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries’ ef­forts to safe­guard re­gional peace and unity.

Bachelet said that 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 tar­iff du­ties now, she said.

In June 2016, the China Con­struc­tion Bank, one of China’s largest bank­ing in­sti­tu­tions, opened a San­ti­ago branch, which made it the first clear­ing bank for trans­ac­tions in Chi­nese cur­rency in South Amer­ica.

The Chi­nese bank will fa­cil­i­tate Chi­nese finance to­ward Chilean projects, Bachelet said.

Chile was the first Latin Amer­i­can coun­try to have signed a bi­lat­eral FTA with China. In 2014, the bi­lat­eral trade vol­ume reached $34.15 bil­lion, al­most five-fold the amount af­ter the sign­ing of the agree­ment.

The 25th-largest trad­ing part­ner with Chile be­fore the FTA was reached, China is now Chile’s big­gest trade part­ner, buyer and im­porter.

In 2015, al­though the over­all trade value de­clined to $31.9 bil­lion be­cause of the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, 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, dig­i­tal cus­toms and more sci­en­tific in­spec­tion and quar­an­tine into the tra­di­tional com­mod­ity trade, Liu said.

Dur­ing the meet­ing with Bachelet in July 2014, Xi stressed the im­por­tance of finance, as he called on both coun­tries to form a new co­op­er­a­tion pat­terns driven by fi­nan­cial co­op­er­a­tion and sup­ported by trade and in­vest­ment co­op­er­a­tion.

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