Chilean President Ricardo Lagos applauded an agreement reached Friday between Chile and China on trade in cargo, an important step toward the establishment of their free trade area (FTA).
"This is good news for agriculture and meat production. Access to the Chinese market is good news for job creation in our country," said Lagos, whose country is China's third largest trading partner in Latin America after Brazil and Mexico.
China is Chile's second largest trading partner after the United States.
The agreement was reached Friday night in Beijing after five rounds of negotiations which started in November 2004.
China and Chile are expected to sign the agreement within this year and implement it as soon as possible, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said Friday.
According to the deal, the two countries will cut their tariffs by 92 percent.
Chilean Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker, who had just finished the trade talks in Beijing, told Chile's Radio Cooperativa that the remaining tariffs, which affect mainly Chilean exports of apples, grapes and salmon, will be gradually reduced over a period of 10 years.
Walker said 152 Chinese products, mostly textiles, would not be part of the deal in order to protect the interests of Chilean producers in the industry.
However, Chinese machinery, computers, cars, cell phones and electronics will enjoy zero import tariff.
Walker said he expected that Chile's annual exports to China would have risen to US$8 billion by 2008 from US$4 billion at present.
Chile and China also plan to kick off negotiations for a free market in services and investment in the first half of 2006.
Chile is likely to become the second trade partner to build an FTA with China, only after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
(Xinhua News Agency October 29, 2005)