Business / Economy

Chile hails China as its top trade partner

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-03-22 14:42

SANTIAGO - China now is Chile's leading trade partner, with their bilateral trade volume having grown fourfold in the past decade, local media reported on Monday.

"In 2015, Chilean exports to China amounted to $16.671 billion, while imports totaled $14.8 billion," El Mercurio, a Chilean local daily, said.

In 10 years, "the trade volume between the two countries has grown fourfold from $8.122 billion in 2005 -- the year before a free trade agreement (FTA) went into effect -- to $31.471 billion in 2015," it said, adding that "this figure represents 25 percent of Chile's foreign trade."

The average trade balance over this period has been about $4.234 billion.

Juan Esteban Musalem, president of the Chile-China Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, told the daily that the FTA between Chile and China has been one of the "great milestones" in their bilateral ties.

"Thanks to the FTA, China is playing an increasingly larger role as a destination market for Chilean food products. Fruits, seafood and wine, among other products, have gained great popularity among consumers in the Asian country," said Musalem.

While copper, Chile's main raw material export, represents 79 percent of the country's exports to China, the Asian giant is also Chile's second-largest trade partner for non-copper goods.

In 2014, Chile's non-copper exports to China -- including fruits, foodstuffs and wine -- amounted to $3.579 billion, accounting for 21 percent of its total exports to the Asian country.

Over the past 10 years, the number of Chilean companies that exported to China has more than doubled, increasing from 477 in 2006 to 1,084 in 2015.

According to the General Directorate of International Economic Relations (DIRECON), "97.2 percent of Chilean merchandise enters the Chinese market duty free." The figure represents some 7,336 products.

The bilateral trade agreement has also helped boost Chile's industrial exports to China, the daily said.

"The performance of industrial exports to China has stood out since the FTA went into effect, growing at an average annual rate of 12 percent between 2005 and 2015, which translates into $2.151 billion," it said.

Among the industrial exports, "cellulose leads the list, with an export value three times higher than in 2005, followed by food products, which have registered an average annual increase of 6 percent in the same period," it added.

"Today national foods have significantly penetrated the Chinese market," it said, adding that Chile was China's top supplier of fresh cranberries and cherries last year, while 77 percent of China's whole salmon and fresh plum imports come from Chile.

In addition to the cherries and cranberries, the food items that have driven growth of export to this area also include beef and lamb.

"China is now one of the three main destinations for Chilean foods and beverages, along with the United States and Japan," Andres Rebolledo, director of economic relations at the Chilean Foreign Ministry, said, adding that "in 10 years, food shipments to China will grow tenfold."

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