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China agrees to boost trade with Chile

Associated Press

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) – China and Chile plan to double their trade to $60 billion by 2015, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Tuesday during an official visit.

Wen met President Sebastian Pinera in Santiago on the last stop of a trade-boosting tour that also took him to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. China is Chile’s top trade partner, but the Andean country has mostly missed out on the Chinese investment boom and Pinera’s government has been pushing for more direct investment from the Asian giant.

“An important result of this visit is that we have agreed on negotiations … on our free-trade deal,” Wen told reporters about trade between China and Chile, which is now at about $30 billion.

China is particularly interested in Chile because it is the world’s biggest copper supplier. But Chilean entrepreneurs also see a huge potential to feed China’s voracious appetite for commodities and its new taste buds for wine, salmon and other top Chilean products.

During the official visit, the two countries agreed to extend their 2006 free-trade deal and signed trade accords for phytosanitary certificates for Chilean livestock and export deals for agricultural products. Pinera also invited China to bid on the construction of a massive bridge that would link the thin Chilean mainland to the Chiloe Island off its coast.

SkySolar a Chinese renewable energy company also announced plans Tuesday for the construction of a $900 million to $1.2 billion solar park, the Asian country’s biggest investment in energy-strapped Chile.

“These are all incredibly positive signs in our efforts to attract Chinese investment. We’re setting a milestone with this solar park,” said Matias Mori, head of Chile’s Foreign Investment Committee.

SkySolar will partner with Chile’s Sigdo Koppers and China Development Bank for the construction of the 300-megawatt solar park in northern part of the country. Chinese investment in Chile between 1974 and 2010 reached around $100 million a year, according to figures by the Foreign investment Committee. Investments topped $205 million in 2011 and are expected to reach about $300 million this year.

Associated Press writer Luis Andres Henao contributed to this report.

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