May 23, 2019
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Piñera offers Chile as gateway for China and Latin America

By Víctor Escribano

Beijing, Apr 25 (efe-epa) .- The Chilean president has Thursday offered his country as a gateway between China and Latin America on the second day of his official visit to the Asian country, its main trading partner.

Sebastian Piñera made the comments during an innovation and investment meeting in Beijing on Thursday morning.

"We want to transform Chile into a true business center for Chinese companies, so that you can, from Chile, also reach all of Latin America," he added.

Artificial intelligence and electronic commerce were two of the issues addressed at the meeting, attended by both Chilean and Chinese businessmen.

After the forum, the director of ProChile, an institution that promotes Chilean exports and foreign investment, Jorge O'Ryan, told Efe that the purpose of the trip is to "strengthen the relationship" with China, its main "commercial partner”.

Bilateral trade exchanges increased by 24 percent during 2018 to $42.8 billion, which is a "record" figure, according to data compiled by the Chilean chancellery.

China is the main trading partner of Chile, and exchanges with the Asian country account for 30 percent of total foreign trade of the Andean nation, with special prominence in mining exports, mainly copper, which reached an historic peak in 2018 after increasing by 30 percent to $20 billion.

O'Ryan said that his country now "wants to export not only traditional products such as copper, forest industry or food, but also innovation or new technologies."

He praised the "very powerful" relationship with China and said: "I understand that President Xi Jinping would also be going to Chile in October."

Javiera Quiroga, head of innovation and entrepreneurship of ProChile, said that "although Chile is a very small market compared to China", it is trying to "show to Chile as a gateway to the rest of Latin America for Chinese capitals and the rest of the world."

The ProChile delegation was accompanied by other Chilean businesspeople, including Rebeca Gálvez, manager of Patagonia Biotecnología, a company dedicated to manufacturing sustainable products with seaweed.

"The fact that our country has a free trade agreement with China for a long time is key to the growth of entrepreneurship in Chile, they have a road instead of a dirt road," she told Efe.

After the innovation meeting, the president of Chile inaugurated an act to promote wines from his land, which sent eight million boxes to China in 2018, according to the South American country.

Piñera's trip to Beijing continued with a visit to the headquarters of the transport company Didi, the Chinese equivalent to Uber, which is scheduled to start operating in Chile this year, after having already launching in Brazil and Mexico.

A lunch with directors of large Chinese companies was the next appointment of the Chilean president in the Chinese capital.

Piñera sought to increase the development of exports of services and increase and diversify China's investments in the South American country.

He was appointed an honorary professor of Tsinghua University in Beijing in a ceremony attended by former Chilean President Eduardo Frei and current Foreign Minister, Roberto Ampuero.

"In the past, being in the Pacific Ocean meant being at the end of the world, now it's the center of the world," Piñera said during his speech at the university.

He also referred to China’s Belt and Road initiative, for which a second forum will take place on Friday and Saturday.

He said the project, also known as the New Silk Road, "restores history, the idea of ??uniting and connecting the world, of making the world smaller, which is why Chile is so enthusiastic about BRI.”

Piñera will be one of the 37 heads of state and government that will attend the forum, which has gathered representatives from 150 countries and international organizations in the Chinese capital to address the initiative for construction of infrastructures throughout the world.

However, the project has also generated doubts, suspicions and protests by environmental and human rights organizations over a lack of transparency and lack of studies of the social and environmental impact. EFE-EPA

vec/rb/ja

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