Chilean Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley is currently in Australia today and on Wednesday will be signing in Canberra a Free Trade Agreement, plus another battery of accords with Australian authorities.
Foxely stated that the agreement is designed to allow Chile and Australia to work together in order to compete within the Asian market. "We are going to sign a Free Trade Agreement with a country that is very similar to ours because the message is that we don't really want to compete, but would rather like to join forces" said Foxley. "The reason is obvious; we are both looking towards the Asian-Pacific region. We have free trade agreements with all of the Asian countries and we don't have the capacity to provide on our own the supply levels of this expanding market" he added. Following the signature of the agreement it must be ratified by both parliaments and will become effective on January first next year. Australia will be represented at the ceremony in Parliament House by Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith who described the agreement as the most comprehensive FTA Australia has negotiated. "The agreement will eliminate 97% of tariffs on existing merchandise trade and 100% of tariffs on existing merchandise trade by 2015" Mr Smith said in a statement. An arrangement has also been made to allow for a considerable increase in the number of people permitted to participate in the "Work and Holiday" program, which is geared towards stimulating tourism as well as promoting exchange and mutual understanding between young Chileans and Australians through authorized holiday/work experiences in the other country. Both ministers will hold talks on Wednesday on a range of bilateral and global issues, and Mr Foxley is to meet Prime Minister Kevin Rudd before he leaves Australia on Thursday. Two-way trade between Australia and Chile is presently valued at more than 850 million US dollars a year and the stock of Australian investment in Chile exceeds three billion US dollars.