SANTIAGO, Chile - China and Latin America are seeking to diversify their business ties, which are currently heavily focused on the commodity sector.
Vice-President Xi Jinping assured the audience at the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), on the last stop of his Latin America tour, that China will promote trade in high value-added goods with Latin America.
"We will push China-Latin America cooperation toward a comprehensive, deeper, balanced and sustainable direction," Xi said on Friday.
He promised that more Chinese enterprises will be encouraged to expand their investment and launch businesses in Latin America and to explore cooperation in the agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure, new energy, aviation and space industries.
"(We should) actively explore new ways to further elevate our cooperation level," said Xi, who left Chile on Saturday after a four-nation tour, which also took him to Italy, Cuba and Uruguay.
Xi also said that he hopes the talks between Chile and China on the investment chapter of their Free Trade Agreement (FTA) could be concluded as soon as possible. The FTA between the two countries now only covers trade in goods and services.
Xi hailed the past 10 years as a decade of common development for China and Latin America. During the period, bilateral trade has jumped from less than $15 billion to $183 billion, registering an average annual growth of 28.4 percent.
China is now Latin America's second-largest trade partner, trailing the United States. Meanwhile, China's imports from Latin America grew more rapidly than from any other region. About 8 percent of Latin America's exports went to China last year.
Alicia Barcena, executive secretary of ECLAC, said that diversification of trade between Latin America and China, which is now characterized by primary goods, is essential.
She said more efforts should be made to boost mutual investment in manufacturing and services.
Both sides should learn from each other's experience, she said, adding that China could learn from Latin America's experience in urbanization.
Barcena praised China's achievements. "For the past decades, we watched with admiration how China has become the world's second-largest economy and the most dynamic economy. China's experiences in urbanization, industrialization and the eradication of poverty are unprecedented in human history," she said.
The fifth annual meeting of the Chile-China Business Council, which also opened last Friday and was attended by Xi, drew hundreds of government officials and business people.
In November, a China-Latin America business summit to be held in Peru is expected to attract 400 Chinese officials and business people, and 600 attendees from Latin America.
Francisco Garces, a board member of Banco de Chile, the country's second-largest bank, said the annual meeting is a good place to better understand Chinese policies, which he described as "revolutionary".
Having visited China more than 20 times, Garces said his bank, which has a representative office in Beijing, has ties with the China Development Bank and other major Chinese lenders.
"To Chileans, the relationship with China is close and very important. (It is) getting more and more important," he said.
That is also the case for Chilean blueberry farmers, whose produce got the nod last week to enter the Chinese mainland market, according to a press release from the Chilean Fresh Fruit Exports' Association.
Meanwhile, Yu Fei, chairman of the textile firm East Dragon and head of the Jiangsu Chamber of Commerce in Chile, praised the investment environment in Chile as very favorable for investors.
"I am very satisfied with the overall situation of doing business here," said Yu, who has operated a business in Chile for more than a decade.
While closer economic ties between China and Latin America have drawn increasing attention, both Vice-President Xi and Barcena of ECLAC emphasized a more comprehensive relationship.
Xi proposed more cooperation between non-governmental and academic entities, news media and other sectors to build a solid foundation for the relationship, adding that exchanges between young people are of special significance.
Barcena said that Latin America and China should also conduct more high-level dialogues on global issues, such as cooperation in global governance and international organizations such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.