SANTIAGO — Chinese and Chilean leaders have expressed their willingness to further tighten their already close relationship. Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera signed nine agreements in the agricultural, banking and telecommunication sectors on Thursday evening in Chile’s presidential palace.
The banking agreements include financial cooperation between the Development Bank of China and BancoEstado SA, one of the largest banks in Chile, and cooperation between banking regulators in the two countries.
In the mining sector, China Minmetals Corp signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Codelco, Chile’s state copper mining company, to strengthen cooperation. China is the largest copper importer and Chile is the world’s largest copper producer.
Sun Hongbo, a senior expert of South American studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS), said that China is one of Chile’s most important import markets. “China’s potential market for Chilean goods and copper has already become the tie connecting the two countries,” Sun said.
China’s telecommunication giants Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and ZTE Corp also signed deals with Chilean partners on broadband and teleconferencing systems.
“The agreements reached (today) are very significant in boosting our bilateral relationship,” Xi said. “The two countries should grasp the opportunity to elevate the bilateral relationship to a higher stage,” he said. “The two countries shoulder an important task to develop the economy and improve peoples’ livelihoods.”
“China and Chile are geographically distant, but we are very close in terms of our values, principles and vision,” Pinera said.
With trade between the two countries valued at more than $25 billion, China has become Chile’s largest trading partner. However, Pinera believes that’s just the beginning. “We had the chance to discuss with Vice-President Xi what is ahead and what we have to do in order to strengthen our relationship.”
“We have reached the consensus that we have to cooperate in areas including technology, science and innovation and clean renewable energy. Those are our main priorities for the future,” Pinera said.
CASS’ Sun agreed that the two countries need to cooperate in new and high-tech industries. “Projects similar to the agreement on earth resource satellite cooperation signed with Brazil need to be advocated across Latin American countries. We have formulated an agreement for a South Pole expedition with Chile,” Sun said.
The Chilean billionaire president also revealed that the two countries are working on a bilateral free-trade agreement for investment, which adds to the current free-trade agreements for goods and services.
“During my visit to China (in November), I agreed with President Hu Jintao that we should have an investment agreement. We are working on it,” he said.
He said that Chile is willing to become a gateway for China to Latin America, and the two countries will cooperate on international issues. “(We will) work together to face the challenges of the 21st century – climate change, sustainable growth and the most important thing of all, to collaborate to increase the quality of life for the Chinese people and the Chilean people,” Pinera said.
Xi praised the Chilean government and its people for outstanding work in reconstruction after the devastating earthquake last year and the miraculous rescue of 33 miners.