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China, Chile sign free-trade agreement
Updated: 2005-11-18 14:16

BUSAN, South Korea - China and Chile signed a free-trade agreement Friday, the first between China and a Latin American country.

Chilean Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker and his Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing signed the pact on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Busan, South Korea. Chinese President Hu Jintao and Chilean President Ricardo Lagos witnessed the signing.

No details of the agreement were immediately released, but it was quickly welcomed by business leaders. Chilean officials have said it is the first free-trade agreement between China and a Latin American country.

"The free-trade agreement is a historic step for free trade — important for China, important for Chile, important for Latin America," Mauro Mazzacurati, the president of delivery company DHL's operation in Chile, told The Associated Press.

Earlier Friday, Lagos extolled the benefits of bilateral free-trade agreements in a speech to business executives at the APEC forum, which aims to achieve free trade between its 21 member economies by 2020.

Lagos said the ultimate goal should be a strong multilateral trading system based on the World Trade Organization.

Disputes over agriculture and other issues have soured hopes of advancing trade liberalization goals at the WTO's ministerial meeting in Hong Kong next month. Recent talks in Europe have failed to resolve the disputes.

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