Chile president to sign draft FTA

New Delhi, Jan 16 | Updated: Jan 17 2005, 05:49am hrs
On his first official trip abroad this year, Chilean president Ricardo Lagos is arriving here on a five-day visit from January 19.

The visiting president will sign a framework free trade agreement with India.

According to senior officials, the agreement is aimed at reaching a free trade pact between the two countries will be signed by the Chilean leader and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

After the framework agreement is signed, a timeline will be set for negotiations that are expected to lead to a partial free trade deal, officials in the ministry of commerce said.

Chile depends on foreign trade for 70% of its gross domestic product (GDP). Hence, arriving at new trade agreements and making headway in the markets of Asia are considered to be of vital importance to that country.

Since signing its first trade accord with Mexico in 1991, Chile has gone on to enter similar deals with all Latin American countries, including a 1996 agreement that made Chile an associate member of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

In 1996, Chile also negotiated a free trade treaty with Canada, while the association agreement with the EU entered into effect in 2003. The free trade pact with the US came in to being in January 2004, followed by a trade treaty with South Korea, the first with an Asian nation.

The Chilean economy is in the midst of a process of opening, of negotiating trade deals, of pursuing the reduction of tariffs and para-tariff barriers, and this will continue to be a primary goal, officials said.

The most immediate objective is India, where the average import tariff is 28%, with duties of 50.8% on copper and 212% on fine wines - two of the products that Chile especially wants to export to India.

Mr Lagos is expected to attend the opening ceremony of a seminar, Chile-India: Business Opportunities in Mumbai.