Cable 39336, Chile estrecha vínculos con China
«This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.»
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 07 SANTIAGO 001794
EAP/CM FOR KAYE LEE
WHA/PCP FOR JEFF BISCHOFF
WHA/ESPC LAWRENCE GUMBINER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/27/2015
TAGS: EAGR, ECON, EFIN, EINV, EMIN, ENRG, ETRD, ETTC, PHUM, PREL, SENV, CH, ETRD
SUBJECT: CHILE: INCREASING TIES WITH CHINA
REF: SECSTATE 138041
Classified By: Ambassador Craig A. Kelly for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (S/NF) Summary: Chile is trying to position itself as the business platform for Latin America. It is using China’s interest in stable suppliers — primarily for copper — to increase ties with its second largest bilateral trading partner after the U.S. and with the Pacific Basin as a whole. Chile and China are moving ahead with negotiations for a free trade agreement, and Chile expects to complete talks by the end of 2005. The Chinese government has also openly expressed a desire to increase ties with Latin America, and has chosen to negotiate its first free trade agreement in the region with Chile. Chinese President Hu Jintao’s November 2004 visit to Chile (in conjunction with APEC) produced a number of additional agreements to increase trade, educational and tourism ties. There is talk that President Lagos may return to China for a second official visit before the end of his presidential term in March 2006. Both sides agreed to consult more frequently on important multilateral political issues Chile does not appear to be raising tough topics like human rights violations, democratic processes, labor protections or environmental preservation.
2. (S/NF) China’s growing commercial, educational and military ties with Chile will increase its access to many areas of Chilean government and society. This, in turn, will increase Chile’s vulnerability to Chinese intelligence gathering activities. And – if used as a base for increased Chinese presence in the region – Chile may become a platform country in more ways than it ever imagined. End Summary.
Engaging China ) A Reflection of Chile’s «»Diversification»»
3. (C) Chileans understand that market diversification is key to maintaining trade-dependent growth. Chile has already negotiated free trade agreements with seven other countries, including the U.S. and the European Union. Chile also has limited economic cooperation agreements with seven Latin American countries. Chile signed a limited trade agreement with Cuba in 1999.
4. (C) Now Chile has focused on Asia. In 2004, Ricardo Lagos Weber, son of President Lagos and then the Foreign Ministry’s Director of Multilateral Economic Affairs (DIRECON), stated, &We have always looked to the north, to North America and Europe, but the future is in Asia and we are committed to playing a role in that part of the world.8 In 2004, the Chileans successfully negotiated an FTA with South Korea and they recently finalized FTAs with New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei. However, an FTA with China would be Chile’s crowning trade achievement in Asia, given the size of potential Chinese markets.
President Hu Jintao’s Visit to Chile in November 2004
5. (U) Chile was the 2004 host of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in November 2004. In addition to the Leaders’ Summit, President Hu Jintao’s trip to Chile included an official State Visit. He met with President Lagos and the two announced a series of deliverables:
– The formal establishment of free trade negotiations between China and Chile, which commenced in January 2005.
– An agreement to add Chile to China’s «»select»» list of authorized destination countries for the 35 million Chinese tourists who travel abroad every year.
– Protocols to improve cooperation on health and medical research.
– An agreement to limit the quarantining of poultry products.
6. (U) During a joint press conference, the two leaders emphasized the historical ties between Chile and China. Chile was one of the first South American countries to establish full diplomatic relations with China in 1970 Chile was one of the first South American countries to recognize the Chinese economy as a full «»market»» economy and Chile is the first South American country to negotiate a free trade agreement with China. Though President Lagos had previously visited China in 2001, President Hu Jintao invited him to make a second state visit before the end of Lagos’ presidential term in March 2006.
China’s Impact on the Chilean Economy
7. (U) China has become Chile’s second most important trading partner after the U.S. China is one of the top exporters of manufactured goods to the Chilean market, including garments, footwear, toys, machinery, electronics and light industry products. Chile exports paper pulp, fishmeal, fruits and – most importantly – copper to China. From 2000 ) 2004, trade between Chile and China increased 249.1 percent. Chile has become China’s third most important trading partner in Latin America, behind Brazil and Argentina.
– In 2004, the trade between the two countries grew an additional 51.9 percent for a total of USD 5.9 billion.
– During the first quarter of 2005, Chilean exports to China totaled over USD 1 billion, a 65 percent increase year-on-year.
Copper is King
8. (SBU) Chile’s current economic boom is partially due to the highest world copper prices in the last 17 years. Prices are rising in part due to demand from the Chinese market, which requires 3.8 million tons of copper each year to sustain economic growth. Stability and large reserves make Chile an attractive supplier for China. Chile’s state copper company, CODELCO, currently supplies 10 percent of the world’s copper and has documented reserves and extraction capacity to continue production at the current rate for the next 120 years. Industry experts report that most Chilean copper is being shipped to the Chinese provinces of Shandong, Shanghai and Zhejiang.
9. (SBU) Prices have consistently exceeded the expectations of the Government of Chile’s Copper Commission. When calculating the 2005 Budget Law, the Copper Commission estimated that the commodity would sell for USD 1.10 per pound. It currently trades at USD 1.60. Because of Chile’s unique budget formulation, CODELCO must contribute all profits above the USD 1.10 Budget Law estimate to government coffers. Experts calculate that if the copper price stays at least at USD 1.50 for the rest of 2005, there will be a USD 1.4 billion surplus in the Chilean Treasury. At USD 1.50, there will also be a USD 400 million increase in tax revenues paid by the top ten private mining companies alone.
State Copper Companies Sign Bilateral Alliance
10. (U) On May 31, 2005, the Executive Director of Chile’s CODELCO signed a USD 2 billion per year sales, finance, and investment agreement with the Executive Director of China’s MinMetals. This agreement comes after a 10-year study of Chile’s copper sector by MinMetals. CODELCO will receive an up-front payment of USD 550 million for a 15-year, 57 million tons per year supply contract with MinMetals. In addition, MinMetals will purchase a 25 percent share for 600 million USD in the Gaby mine, a facility in Antofogasta, which will produce 17,000 tons of copper per year beginning in 2007.
11. (SBU) CODELCO is pleased with this alliance because it provides a guaranteed market for their copper. It also offers them new alternatives for financing future projects. CODELCO has ambitious plans for the future — hoping to almost double annual production capacity — and needs to invest USD 1.7 billion between 2005-2015 to accomplish that goal. CODELCO sees its partnership with the Chinese as an excellent way to expand, without assuming new debts and possibly harming its risk classification in global financial markets.
Chinese Links to Other Chilean Industries
12. (U) The Chilean-Chinese Chamber for Commerce, Industry and Tourism (CHICIT) has worked to promote other Chilean opportunities for Chinese investors. On the margins of the FTA negotiation rounds, CHICIT prepared presentations on Chile as a Platform Country»» and «»Attracting High Tech Investments.»»
13. (U) CHICIT reports that total Chinese direct foreign investment in Chile only totaled USD 24 million in 2004, although the MinMetals deal above has already raised that figure for 2005. Most of the 2004 funds were spent to set up representative offices for Chinese companies preparing to enter this new market. In addition to copper, the Chinese are currently studying Chile’s iron and gold mining sectors for possible future investment. Two Chinese high tech companies – Huawei Technologies Inc and ZTE – have also opened offices in Santiago with a strategic plan to enter into the telecommunications market. Both companies are based in Guangdong province. CHICIT mentions that both companies have preferred to maintain a low profile»» during their start-up periods, although both of these companies have also opened offices in 13 other Latin American countries and are enjoying great success in the Brazilian market. COSCO, one of China’s largest shipping companies, also maintains an active representational office in the Chilean capital.
14. (U) Other representative offices for Chinese corporations have not fared so well in Santiago, opting to close their local offices «»for strategic reasons.»» NORINCO (a mining machinery company), CITIFOR (a forestry investment company with initial investments in Chile’s Region X) and CMEC (the Chinese National Machinery and Equipment Import/Export Group) were among those who closed shop. CHICIT speculates that these companies were unable to find adequate local legal representation and local commercial partners.
Bilateral Exchange Programs Are Established
15. (U) In addition to increased trade and investment cooperation between Chile and China, the two governments have begun to establish formal exchange programs. In conjunction with the March 2004 APEC Educational Ministerial in Chile, Chilean Minister of Education Sergio Bitar and Chinese Vice Minister of Education Zhang Xinsheng signed a Memorandum of Agreement to promote Chinese language instruction in Chilean schools. Four schools with a total of 200 students were
chosen in Santiago, Vina del Mar, Valparaiso and Chillan to begin the pilot program in August 2005 with six teachers from Beijing. Both countries hope that the first class of Chilean students fluent in Mandarin will graduate in 2010. With financial support from the Government of China, six Chilean students will begin a one-year study program in 2005 at the University of Beijing. In terms of higher education, the Catholic University of Chile has a formal exchange program with the Beijing Institute of Technology. Other Chilean universities hope to sign agreements with Chinese institutions in the future.
16. (S/NF) General Cheyre, the Chilean Army Chief of Staff, visited China in October 2004 and agreed to establish a Mandarin language training program for the military. In January 2005, two Chinese instructors arrived in Santiago to begin a two-year language study program with 10 Chilean Army officers. The Chilean officers will spend the third year of this program in Beijing, perfecting their skills in-country. (Note: Sources have told the Embassy that Chile’s close military ties with the United States are of great interest to the Chinese. There is concern that the Chinese could be using Chilean officers and access to the Army training school to learn more about joint programs, priorities and techniques that the Chileans have developed with their U.S. counterparts. End Note.)
17. (U) On May 30, 2005 in Beijing, Chilean Foreign Minister Walker and Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing announced the creation of a scholarship program for young Chilean diplomats to spend a six-month training period with their counterparts in Beijing. As the Chilean press at the time noted, there is currently only one diplomat in the entire Chilean Foreign Ministry who speaks Mandarin.
18. (C) Sources have also informed post that a small delegation of high-ranking Chinese National Police officers just completed an official visit to Chile hosted by the Carabineros (Chilean National Police).
19. (U) Chileans have also expressed an interest in improving their knowledge of China’s culture and languages. A small Chilean-Chinese Cultural Institute opened in Santiago in 1953. Known mostly for their Mandarin language classes, the Institute’s director reports there are currently 180 language students enrolled, compared to only 23 students two years ago. Though this is a two-year program, there is a long waiting list of Chileans who are willing to make a commitment to learning Chinese language and culture. In terms of cultural activities, the Institute’s mission statement says that it organizes conferences, seminars, art expositions and cinematic festivals to promote Chinese culture. However, the only recent activity has merely been a joint art exhibition with the Carabineros. The Institute’s most popular cultural program features the Chinese circus, but it only comes to Chile every two or three years.
Chilean Tourism Officials Expect a Boom from China
20. (U) In June 2005, the Chinese government informed Chile’s National Tourism Administration that Chile was formally added to the «»select»» list of authorized destinations for Chinese tourists who wish to travel abroad. This new agreement, which went into effect July 15, means Chile can now compete for revenue generated by the 29 million Chinese who travel every year. Chinese tourists are reported to be the seventh-biggest spenders when traveling abroad, with an average daily budget of USD 175 per day. Chileans hope Chinese tourists will favor the high-end destinations that they are trying to develop and promote.
21. (U) Lan Chile, Turavion, TurismoCocha, ADS Mundo and other Chilean tourist agencies traveled to China in June 2005 to sell Chile as an &End of the World8 exotic destination. Though Brazil and Argentina have applied to the Chinese government for similar «»select»» status, Chile is the first country in South America to be added to the list. Given this, the World Tourism Organization has estimated that as many as 100 million Chinese tourists can be expected to visit Chile by 2020. Chilean tourism agencies are preparing to make the most of this important economic opportunity.
Working to Increase Awareness About Chinese Intelligence Activities
22. (S/NF) As bilateral ties between Chile and China have increased, appropriate personnel at Embassy Santiago have worked with Chilean government officials to sensitize them to the security and intelligence threats emanating from China. Chile has long considered itself immune from counterintelligence issues. However, select Chilean government officials are starting to understand that national assets are largely unprotected. They are unaware of the potentially harmful role the Chinese could begin to play in Chile. The Chileans have few baseline figures regarding Chinese security intelligence collection activities. There are 22 staff members at the Chinese Embassy in Santiago, reportedly one of China’s largest missions in Latin America. The diplomats are all good Spanish speakers, and are active on the social circuit. In addition, there are usually three Xinhua reporters assigned to Chile, and it is assumed that they are involved in some kind of collection activity. The number of Xinhua representatives in Chile surged to 12 during the APEC 2004 Leaders’ Summit in Santiago.
23. (S/NF) It is likely that Chinese security intelligence organizations will endeavor to augment collection activities and capabilities as business interests grow in Chile. Also, as the USG augments its support to the Chilean Armed Forces, Chinese interest in USG activities in the Southern Cone will most assuredly increase. The Chinese will likely attempt to learn more about U.S. military strategies and techniques via Chilean participation in bilateral training programs and joint exercises.
Bilateral FTA Negotiations: Current Status and Short-Term Goals
24. (S/NF) Chilean and Chinese trade negotiators concluded their third round of talks on June 28, 2005. Chile reportedly agreed to China’s demand to limit this FTA to trade in commodities, excluding any formal agreements on services and investment. Foreign Ministry Director of Bilateral Affairs Rebolledo told the Ambassador August 26 that negotiations were proceeding well, and he expected China and Chile to complete talks by the end of 2005. Rebolledo characterized the Chinese negotiations as well prepared. Unlike the U.S.-Chile FTA, Rebolledo said the Chile-China FTA would have a separate labor chapter, and no environmental chapter. Some Chilean sources cite this as proof that China looks at Chile as only a «»commodities colony»», not a full and equal trading partner. Other Chileans view the limited FTA as a rational way to limit potential areas of conflict, and to come to rapid accord on the areas governing 95 percent of bilateral trade.
25. (S/NF) The third round of negotiations produced a number of agreements, including the creation of a joint entrepreneur committee. However, Foreign Minister Walker took a tough line with his Chinese counterpart on the issue of illegal over-fishing of mackerel, sea bass and scads by Chinese boats. Walker said that if the Chinese did not come into compliance with Chilean fishing regulations, they would be barred from docking at any Chilean port. The Chileans have asked the Chinese to provide them with proof of substantial advances in cooperation by August 2005, otherwise punitive measures will come into effect. Walker told Chilean reporters that Chile’s fishermen would not be sold out just to finish FTA negotiations with the Chinese.
26. (S/NF) Publicly, China has stated that it chose Chile as its first South American free trade partner so it could learn negotiating skills from the «»respected and experienced Chilean trade team.»» They also cited Chile and China’s common interests as developing countries. In private, China’s negotiators have displayed the same intransigence their delegations demonstrate in other international negotiation fora. The Chileans were reportedly quite taken aback and may have been overconfident about their ability to sway the Chinese on key issues.
27. (S/NF) There has been no public announcement of the schedule for future FTA negotiations, although this issue seems to be on the fast track in both countries. Contacts at Chile’s Ministry of Economy (DIRECON) mentioned President Lagos’ desire to have all negotiations completed before the November 2005 APEC Leaders, Summit in Seoul. In order to meet this goal, the FTA negotiation teams may drop a few of the more contentious points and sign an even less-comprehensive agreement.
28. (C) Chile is actively courting increased ties with China on economic, political, educational and tourism fronts. This focus is driven largely by what most Chileans believe to be a bottomless market for Chilean goods. This trade policy toward China is in line with Chile’s ambitions to be a player on the global stage and diversify its trade relationships. This pattern will likely persist regardless of who wins the upcoming presidential election in December 2005. Most Chileans recognize the commercial importance of this trading partner and an increased number of business and government officials are enrolled in Chinese language courses. Relative to the national push for bilingualism in English, however, Mandarin remains a boutique specialty.
29. (C) China is deliberately increasing its presence in Chile with substantial investment in the copper industry and potentially significant increases in tourism. Given its political «»shyness»», it is unlikely Chile will independently raise difficult issues of human rights violations, democratic processes, labor protections or environmental preservation for the time being, especially if it perceives its continued economic prosperity to be at risk.
30. (S/NF) China’s increased commercial, educational and military ties could increase Chile’s vulnerability to covert Chinese activities, such as security and industrial espionage. While the Chileans are sophisticated about their trade relationships, they are still a bit naive about the company they will soon be keeping.
31. (C) Anecdotal but nonetheless a Cassandra-like comment was recently made by a respected political scientist here: China is the single-most controversial foreign policy issue being discussed in the presidential candidates’ camps, but nobody wants to raise it publicly because it might involve a choice between China and the U.S.»»