In an exclusive interview with ChileCarne, Luis Schmidt, Chilean ambassador to China talked about the importance of the upcoming celebration of the seventh annual ChileWeek China, a tool to attract new investment, do business, and boost Chilean exports. In addition, he highlighted the benefits and job opportunities that Chile will enjoy if it signs the TPP11, as well as the opportunities that the Chinese market will provide to the Chilean food and meat industry in the coming years.

In the last decade, Chile has implemented various strategies to keep positioning its products in China. In fact, ChileWeek has been one of these tools used to both attract investment and boost exports. How do you see this upcoming event, considering Chile’s current export goals and the global economic scenario?

This is indeed the seventh edition of ChileWeek in China, last year it was not held due to Covid-19 and now it will take place from November 25th to December 2nd in three Chinese cities: Beijing, as before, which is the capital and obviously where all the political authorities are, which has value in itself; also Chengdu, which is the capital of the Sichuan province, for those who don’t know, with a population of 20 million people and where we just opened a new consulate and commercial office. Chengdu is relevant because we are going to have our first consulate in inland China, very powerful in economic matters. And lastly, we will finish in Shanghai, where economic power is concentrated and we find the largest number of Chilean companies based in China.

Because we are a small country, ChileWeek has helped us position ourselves for two main reasons: it helps build a national image and, secondly; it showcases the investment opportunities our country has in various agricultural businesses, infrastructure projects, and energy, but it also positions our products, which are sold here on a regular basis, as well as facilitating new business. Of course, this year we are not going to host a large number of officials in person, but fortunately they will join us remotely because ChileWeek is already a trademark.

At the event, in addition to presenting opportunities, we will address climate change, a very relevant and worrying issue, which hasn’t only affected Chile; China has experienced summer floods and severe drought. We want to present Chile as a sustainable country that looks toward the future and we will introduce all the sustainability policies we are implementing throughout our production chains. We will also share Chile’s commitment with carbon neutrality given that we are already a leader in clean, hydraulic, wind, and photovoltaic energy; and we are also the most competitive country in green hydrogen production. And why do we do all this? Because, without a doubt, we have increasingly informed consumers who are concerned about these current issues.

On the other hand, ChileWeek has strongly supported economic growth. In 2020, in spite of the pandemic, the economy grew 2.3%, one of the few economies that managed to grow, the rest went into recession. During the first nine months of 2021, our exports to China have grown by 32% and, today, almost 40% of Chile’s exports come to China.

Similarly, these actions to position Chile help Chinese companies to learn about the opportunities our country offers. It’s hard to measure the large amount of business that is done during ChileWeek. What matters is that Chinese companies see that this small country offers many possibilities. We are also opening other opportunities; in Chengdu, for example. We also have jurisdiction over the city of Chongqing, with 35 million inhabitants, which is currently the largest city in the world. The economic ring it has created includes around 250 million people.

What opportunities do you expect the Chinese market to provide to the Chilean food sector -particularly meat- in the coming years, and what economic, political, and social aspects of China might be decisive in this regard?

We are going through the best moment of our political, economic, and social relations with China. Much of this is due to the Free Trade Agreement signed in 2005. So, between 2006 and 2019, our international trade with China grew almost 4.5 times. We believe that these figures will continue to grow in the future. In the case of meat, we were lucky. Pork is the main protein in China and in 2018, African swine fever decimated almost half of China’s pork production, prompting China to start looking for new options to buy meat, like Australia, New Zealand, or the United States, and Chile was able to export almost 700 million USD of pork in 2020.

I think that, although China is beginning to normalize its pork production, Chile is already well positioned for the future. It is important to remain free of pests and disease, a status which allow us to keep exporting as we have so far. We are on a very good footing to continue with our exports. The Asian giant is asking for healthy, safe food products that respect environmental standards in their production. In Chile we have these conditions, and we have for quite some time, which has allowed us to make our way, not only in meat but in the food industry in general.

What is your view on the potential incorporation of Chile to the Comprehensive and Progressive Treaty of Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)? What efforts are needed, in your opinion, to make it happen? What could be the benefits for the country?

Chile’s entry will give us access to more than 3,000 products that for whatever reason were excluded from our free trade agreements with TPP11 countries. Around 800,000 new jobs could be created if we join the treaty. Additionally, it’s an innovative agreement that also incorporates small businesses.

In addition, we can position Chile’s brand thanks to this mega treaty and I hope that, after the recent incorporation of Peru, which is a big competitor, we can rethink the possibility of signing this agreement.

In your opinion, is China currently the main driver of the world economy? Will opportunities continue to grow for the various Chilean exporting sectors?

China is the main driver of the world economy, considering that in import and export trade it already overtook the United States two years ago. We know that the US is currently the world’s primary power, and China second, but the latter is preparing to become the first global economic power within the next three years. Last year we celebrated 50 years of diplomatic relations and both presidents reviewed future possibilities for both nations.

Currently, China represents 33% of the world’s growth and therefore, there are huge opportunities for Chileans. China is our main trading partner and will continue to be a key factor in the future of our international trade. In short, I’m optimistic we will be in China for many years to come, we just need to provide them with quality, quality, and more quality.