Chile, China take new steps for free trade ahead of Bachelet visit to Beijing

SANTIAGO/BEIJING – Chile and China have taken new steps to strengthen the Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) that both nations have carried out for 10 years, in a strategy that might be consolidated at a high-level meeting in May.

Both countries launched negotiations in Beijing on Monday to expand trade ties in the face of protectionist threats from US President Donald Trump.

The Chilean government said officials in Beijing had started discussing expanding an existing bilateral trade agreement to include areas such as e-commerce, services, competence, environmental issues and public procurement.

China is already a major buyer of exports such as copper from Chile, the world’s biggest producer of the metal.

“Our aim is to progress quickly in order to complete the process this year and meet expectations of deepening relations with our top trade partner,” said the head of the government’s bilateral economic affairs department, Pablo Urria, in a statement.

The willingness of both sides, as established in the two-way talks between Michelle Bachelet and Xi Jinping last November in Santiago, seeks to diversify the FTA, for greater access to markets and new trade areas.

Latin American countries are already concerned about the impact Trump’s trade policies will have on their economies.

The US president has threatened to put up barriers to international trade to protect US jobs.

Chile supports the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major trade agreement that has collapsed due to Trump’s opposition.

Chile-China trade rose by $31 474 million in 2016. China accounts for 26 percent of the country’s sales abroad.

Bachelet is scheduled to pay a visit to China next May so as to attend the Strip and Road for the International Cooperation Forum, a Xi Jinping’s idea which expands the Economic Strip of the Silk Road.