by Chris Dalby
SANTIAGO, March 14 (Xinhua) -- As Chile hosts a summit that may lay out the future trade relations in the Asia-Pacific region, many eyes are focused on China's contributions at the High-Level Dialogue on Integration Initiatives in the Asia-Pacific: Challenges and Opportunities.
One leading expert believes "countries cannot simply remain with their arms crossed, especially if their interests to deepen economic cooperation happen to coincide."
"China, Chile and other countries of the Asia-Pacific region that share this vision must be ready to make all needed efforts to advance in this line," said Juan Esteban Matusalem, President of the Chile-China Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (CHICIT), in an interview with Xinhua.
For Matusalem, the benefits of free trade are very obvious in the relationship between China and Chile.
"The bilateral free-trade agreement has shown itself to be one of the great achievements between Chile and China. Furthermore, the constant efforts to deepen it reflect the opportunities to deepen business at all levels," said Matusalem.
For the business leader, the strong cooperation between Chile and China reflect the "pragmatism" of economic ties between China and Latin America overall.
According to the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), China replaced the European Union in 2014 as the region's second largest trading partner.
However, Matusalem pointed out that 70 percent of Latin America's export basket to China is focused on five kinds of products.
"Our challenge is to continue diversifying the quality of our exports, but also to move beyond raw materials toward value-added or other manufactured products. An important step for this is cooperation in science and technology, in fields ranging from astronomy to telecommunications," said Matusalem.
The CHICIT president noticed the evolution of Chile's trade balance with China since a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) came into force.
"Before the bilateral FTA, more than 90 percent of Chilean exports to China are consisted of copper and its derivatives. Since 2006, it has been overhauled. Currently, sectors such as fruits, wine, processed foods and forestry goods are growing in importance. In 2016, the largest growth was for agriculture, forestry and fishing, which grew 42 percent. Fruit exports grew 52 percent," he said.
Matusalem deemed it necessary for Chile to continue showing itself to be a country ready to cater to diverse Chinese customers.
"Professional services are an area where our country can succeed very well, especially given the major transformation of the structure of China's development. Then come the enormous opportunities in the tourism sector," he noted.
Matusalem said that the Pacific Alliance, including Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, has shown great interest in cooperation with China in various fields. "China is one of the main trading partners of each Pacific Alliance member," he added.
In order for the multilateral partnership to blossom, Matusalem recommended that the alliance should "consolidate a large-scale economic platform, allowing its countries to present a common front to Chinese investors."
"It will certainly facilitate the creation of global value chains between players in various economic sectors. It is the challenge lying before us," he added.