The Chilean and Japanese governments will sign a free trade agreement (FTA) on March 27, which constitutes a step forward in reinforcing Chile's presence in Asia, where it currently holds agreements with China (2005) and South Korea. The new convention is similar to others agreed to by the European Union (EU) and the United States.
Both countries concluded negotiations for a FTA last November, after a year of deliberations. Following the announcement, Chilean Minister of Foreign Relations, Alejandro Foxley, confirmed he would travel to Tokyo to sign the trade agreement, which he hopes will "open markets not only for the bigger local companies, but also for the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are developing exports." "It is one additional step that Chile makes and an ambitious one, signifying we will have free markets in Asia of 2.5 billion consumers" said the Foreign Secretary. "What we would like to happen is that not only the usual large-scale Chilean companies are included in this export process to Asia, but companies that are just now starting to lift off the ground internationally will also have full support." Hopes are that during Chilean President Michelle Bachelet's visit to Japan next September she will announce the FTA taking effect. Chile boasts one of the most open economies in Latin America with some 50 trade agreements, and this new agreement paves the way for it to become a regional platform for Asian markets. Though copper remains Japan's main import from Chile, it also buys salmon, trout and other products as well. According to data supplied by Chile's Fisheries Under Secretariat, in November 2006, of total fishery exports, 24% were shipments to Japan. Moreover, 18.9% of the total returns for frozen Chilean exported products were from Japan; and 13.7% of fresh refrigerated products came from the extraction sector. Meanwhile, the Salmon Chilean Farming Association AG (Salmon Chile) informed that between January and December last year, 32% of exported Chilean salmon and trout were shipped to Japan. Japan purchased 704 million US dollars worth of mostly frozen silver salmon and Chilean trout products. According to Chilean Customs officials, 68,488 tons of trout were exported to Japan during 2006, compared to the previous year's 61,695 tons. Japan, imported 70,286 tons of pacific salmon between the months of January ÃÂ¢€" December 2006, compared to 74,819 tons en 2005.